Coping and Multiple Sclerosis:Individuals with Multiple Sclerosis and their Significant Others
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a degenerative condition which affects everyone differently as regards emergence of symptoms. The illness uncertainty associated with MS has ramifications for how those with the condition and those close to them cope with the illness, with each other and with the effect it has on their lives. Health professionals acknowledge that those with MS need to be seen in the context of their families. The perspective of significant others (SOs) need to be acknowledged. However there is a lack of knowledge about what to expect about how people cope as a dyad. This study used Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to explore how those with MS and their SOs cope with this illness in their lives. Seven couples were recruited using purposive sampling through the MS society. Each person in the couple was interviewed separately using a semi-structured interview schedule. The interviews were transcribed and analysed using the principles of IPA to produce overarching themes and sub themes. Peer coding by two supervisors helped to enrich the analysis and contributed to the trustworthiness of the findings. Three overarching themes emerged from the data, two overarching themes with four sub themes and one overarching theme with 3 sub themes. These overarching themes are labelled: Resources and Barriers to Coping, Coping Together: "Peaks and Troughs" and Coping over the Long Haul. Two integrative themes emerged, which were called Faith in Self and Faith in Each Other, encapsulating the participants’ identified primary resources which enabled them to cope. The results of this study will assist health professionals to better comprehend how those with MS cope in an interconnected way with those with whom they share their lives. This research has highlighted the individual preferences about coping style and choice of coping strategies from the perspective of both the person with MS and their significant other. In addition, the nature of the relationship between couples, and the impact this relationship has on their ability to cope, needs to be understood and acknowledged by health professionals. The results of this study indicated that the relationship can be a powerful resource for couples during times of illness related stress. This study adds to the small but growing body of literature about how couples with MS make sense of the disease and how they develop coping strategies relevant to their relationship.
Advisor: Levack, William; Hudson, Sheena
Degree Name: Master of Health Sciences
Degree Discipline: Rehabilitation, Teaching and Research Unit, School of Medicine
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Coping; Multiple Sclerosis; Dyad
Research Type: Thesis