Traumatised, angry, abandoned but some empowered: a national survey of experiences of family caregivers bereaved by motor neurone disease
journal contributionposted on 2021-09-27, 07:52 authored by Samar AounSamar Aoun, K Noonan, G Thomas, Bruce RumboldBruce Rumbold
Background: There are few illnesses as disruptive as motor neurone disease, a fatal neurodegenerative condition, where diagnosis introduces a clinical narrative of inevitable decline through progressive immobilisation into death. Recent evidence suggests that bereaved motor neurone disease family caregivers are more likely to be at moderate or high risk of complicated grief. Methods: Qualitative data from an anonymous national survey of bereaved motor neurone disease caregivers (n = 393) was examined through thematic analysis to explore the experiences of people who are at low, moderate, and high risk of complicated grief. Up to 40% responded to three open-ended questions: How caregivers viewed their coping strategies; the advice they had for others and what had been positive about their experience. Results: Ten themes informed the narratives of illness and loss. All three groups shared similar experiences but differed in their capacity to address them. The low-risk group seemed to recognise the uncertainty of life and that meaning needed to be created by them. For the moderate-risk group, while motor neurone disease was a major disruption, they could with support, regroup and plan in different ways. The high-risk group did not have many resources, external or internal. They felt let down when professionals did not have answers and could not see or did not know how to change their ways of responding to this unwanted situation. Conclusion: The differences in these three profiles and their narratives of loss should alert health and community service providers to identify and address the caregivers’ support needs early and throughout the caregiving journey. Motor Neurone Disease Associations are involved throughout the illness journey and need to invest in a continuum of care incorporating end-of-life care and bereavement support. Community grief literacy and enhancement of social networks are keys to improved support from families and friends that can enable the focus to be on feelings of empowerment rather than abandonment.