THE EXPERIENCES OF FAMILY MEMBERS WHO PROVIDE SUPPORT TO THEIR RELATIVE WITH RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS
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Introduction: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is characterized by slow progression, functional limitations and poor quality of life. As a chronic disabling disease RA influence not only individuals but also their families. The impact of RA on family members includes providing the required care to the ill relative, postponing family plans, or altering family priorities and decisions due to the illness process. Purpose of the Study: The psychosocial changes that family members experience may possible compromise their health, family function and relationships with each other. The purpose of the current study was to describe the experience of family members who provide social support to their relative with RA. This study was set to explore the forms of support that are needed by family members to provide adequate support to their relative with RA. Method: The exploratory purpose of the study leads the researcher to conduct a descriptive qualitative study within the naturalistic inquiry. Naturalistic inquiry is consistent with the aims of this study in which the social support needs of family members of individuals with RA were explored and described. Findings: Five themes emerged from the data analysis, including: 1) effect of the disease; 2) reshaping the relationship; 3) providing support; 4) social support needs; and, 5) finding balance and coping. Conclusion: The impacts of RA on the lives of family members resulted from the chronicity of RA. Participants in this study described the effects of RA on themselves, the changes in the relationship with their relative with RA and their effort to maintain the relationship by providing support to their relative with RA. Additionally, they described the social support that they received from family members, friends and healthcare providers. They continuously identified the support they lacked. Nearly all participants were able to achieve balance between providing support and care to their relative with RA and engaging in their own life activities. They also utilized several coping strategies to achieve balance while providing support to their relative, carrying on their duty toward the family, work and their own personal needs.