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Wives' perceptions of social support while caring for husbands with multiple sclerosis Stovel, Toni Clare


This study was designed to gain an understanding of wives' perceptions of social support while living with and caring for husbands who have multiple sclerosis. In order to understand the experience from the perspective of the participants the qualitative method of phenomenology was chosen. Data collection and data analysis occurred concurrently. Data were collected through unstructured interviews with each of the eight wives who participated. Each transcribed interview was analyzed separately and in relation to the other interviews. Emerging themes were validated and clarified by the participants in the second interview. Eventually an organizing framework emerged that revealed two central themes common to the wives' perceptions of social support. The first central theme describes the wives caregiving experience which was the context for understanding the wives' perceptions of social support. Within this central theme three sub-themes are explored: the commitment of these wives in providing care to their husbands, their desire to have some distance from caregiving, and ambivalence arising from the simultaneous and conflicting desires to provide care and to distance from caregiving. The second central theme describes the nature of support as perceived by the wives. This theme builds upon the first theme and discusses three sub-themes: support for caregiving, support for distancing, and support for ambivalence. Support for caregiving discusses information, practical assistance, acknowledgement, and finances. Support for distancing discusses social activities, professional services, and anticipatory support. Support for ambivalence discusses the desire these wives have to be understood. These findings are discussed in relation to the socialization of women into expressive and caring roles. Furthermore, the reasons why these wives had difficulty in accepting support are explored. The implications for nursing practice, education, and research are delineated in light of these findings.

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