Receiving power through confirmation: the meaning of close relatives for people who have been critically ill

Asa Engström, Siv Söderberg
Journal of Advanced Nursing 2007, 59 (6): 569-76

AIM: This paper is a report of a study to elucidate the meaning of close relatives for people who have been critically ill and received care in an intensive care unit.

BACKGROUND: Falling critically ill can bring about a difficult change in life. In previous reports such events are described as frightening experiences, and close relatives are described as an important source of support in this difficult situation.

METHOD: A purposive sample of 10 adults, eight men and two women, narrated how they experienced their close relatives during and after the time they were critically ill. The data were collected in 2004. The interview texts were transcribed and interpreted using a phenomenological hermeneutic approach influenced by the philosophy of Ricoeur.

FINDINGS: One major theme was identified, experiencing confirmation, with six sub-themes: receiving explanations; a feeling of being understood; a feeling of safety; gaining strength and will-power; having possibilities and realizing their value. Close relatives served as tools for the person who was ill, facilitating better communication and an increased ability to do various things. Simultaneously, feelings of dependence on the close relatives were expressed. There were descriptions of loneliness and fear in the absence of close relatives and, in order to feel safe, the participants wanted their close relatives to stay near them.

CONCLUSION: Close relatives are vital, as they are the ill person's motivation to stay alive and to continue the struggle. Their presence is of great importance for the ill person and must be facilitated by staff.

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