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The meaning of self-care for women with rhumatoid arthritis Magnusson, Cheryl Joy

Abstract

This study explored the self-care experiences of women with a medical diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis for at least 2 years, but no more than 5 years at the time of enrollment in the study. The study participants were between the ages 35 years and 45 years, had completed high school and were English speaking. In-depth personal interviews were conducted with seven women. A follow-up conversation to confirm study findings was conducted in person or by telephone with all seven women. The audio taped interviews were transcribed and analyzed using content analysis. Study findings revealed five major themes: coming to terms with chronicity of rheumatoid arthritis, viewing themselves as experts, learning how to make changes, maintaining control of decisions, and building a network of support. Self-care was a complex, multidimensional experience that occurred in the context of everyday life. Self-care was understood by these women to be embedded in the whole experience of rheumatoid arthritis. It involved educating themselves and their health care providers, as well as seeking partnerships within the health care system. These themes were blended into a narrative that reflected the meanings and understandings of self-care as described by the women. The implications of the findings from this study are discussed with recommendations made for practice, policy, and research. A key recommendation is for health care professionals to adopt a health promotion framework to guide their work with women with rheumatoid arthritis.

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