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The family experience with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease Roberts, Della Kim


This study was designed to gain an understanding of the family experience when an adult member has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is recognized that illness within the family affects the well-being of the family unit and the health of all members. To understand the impact of COPD upon the family, however, the literature provides only knowledge of the experience of the individual who has COPD and the spouse, not that of the family unit. Thus, the purpose of this study was to describe and explain the COPD experience from the perspective of the family unit. A qualitative method, phenomenology, was chosen for this investigation. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with eight families who shared their experiences. From the content analysis of these data, three themes that were common throughout the families' accounts were identified and developed to describe and explain family life with COPD. The first theme, disease-dictated family life, describes four aspects of a common lifestyle that is imposed on the family by the characteristics of COPD. The second theme, isolation, describes the isolation that accompanies the illness experience, for the family group and the individual members within the group. The final theme, family work, describes the four primary challenges the families face and the coping strategies they use to deal with them. These findings revealed that COPD acts as an intense stressor within the family, requiring extensive family work to cope with COPD in a way that maintains the well-being of the family unit. Furthermore, it was found that living with COPD in many ways inhibits the resources within the family and those external sources of support that foster the family's ability to manage the stress associated with living with COPD. The implications for nursing practice and nursing research were delineated in light of the research findings.

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