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Appears in Collections:Psychology Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: The impact of assuming the primary caregiver role following traumatic spinal cord injury: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of the spouse's experience
Author(s): Dickson, Adele
O'Brien, Grainne
Ward, Richard
Allan, David
O'Carroll, Ronan
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Keywords: spinal cord injury
partner caregiver
relationship difficulties
Spinal cord Wounds and injuries
Spinal Cord Injuries nursing
Rehabilitation Nursing
Nurse-Patient Relations
Issue Date: Nov-2010
Date Deposited: 8-Dec-2009
Citation: Dickson A, O'Brien G, Ward R, Allan D & O'Carroll R (2010) The impact of assuming the primary caregiver role following traumatic spinal cord injury: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of the spouse's experience. Psychology and Health, 25 (9), pp. 1101-1120.
Abstract: This study aimed to explore the lived experience of assuming the primary caregiver role in a group of spouses of individuals living with a traumatic spinal cord injury (injuries ranged from paraplegia to quadriplegia). Individual in-depth interviews were conducted with eleven participants who were both the spouse and primary caregiver of an individual with a spinal cord injury; of these, ten were female and one was male. All interviews were transcribed verbatim and were subjected to Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Here we present three inter-related master themes: “The emotional impact of spinal cord injury”; “Post-injury shift in relationship dynamics”; and “Impact of caregiving on identity”. Regarding the emotional impact of spinal injury, participants reported an almost instantaneous sense of loss, emptiness and grief during the injured person’s rehabilitative period and feelings of anxiety were reported in anticipation of their return to the family home. A distinct change in role from spouse and lover to care provider was reported and this ultimately contributed to relationship change and a loss of former identity. The findings are discussed in relation to extant caregiver literature and recommendations for future caregiver support are highlighted.
DOI Link: 10.1080/08870440903038949
Rights: Published in Psychology & Health by Taylor & Francis (Routledge).; This is an electronic version of an article published in Psychology & Health. Psychology & Health is available online at:;

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