Uncertainty Management Theory for Family Caregivers
When a family member has to act both as a support system and a caregiver to a seriously ill individual, there are many complex emotions that often rise. Most notably many of these familial caregivers deal with a great amount of uncertainty. If not properly handled uncertainty can lead to a number of serious health related issues, and can cause any person’s quality of life to deteriorate. Previous research has shown that in most situations you cannot remove uncertainty in a person. However, you can often help an individual manage their uncertainty. This study will focus on ways in which these family caregivers manage the uncertainty they face.
Family caregivers are faced with the responsibility for being both a supportive family member and caregiver to the ill; a situation which often causes these caregivers a great amount of uncertainty. There are also other issues that present themselves when family members are involved. When family members are diagnosed with a serious illness, caregivers become even more involved in the treatment than normal caregivers. This is especially true if the family member is a child, because with children the caregiver must act as both a primary caregiver and decision maker for the child. Because children under the age of 18 do not have the legal right to make their own decisions regarding their treatment, their parents or guardians must legally make these decisions for them.
If approved, this study will use the uncertainty management theory (Brashers 2001; Brashers, Goldsmith, & Hsieh, 2002) to depict which situations during the care process cause the most uncertainty in family caregivers. The study will also aim to show how family caregivers handle their most uncertain situations. The study will use qualitative data from interviews with caregivers to gather information. The study will focus on different familial caregiver relationships such as parent-child, child-parent, sibling-sibling, and spouse-spouse caregiver-patient relationships. The data collected from this study can help create more rhetoric to help family caregivers handle issues dealing with uncertainty and to be more prepared to handle situations that will bring uncertainty about.
The responsibility of being in charge of a a family member’s health related decisions and having a direct impact on that person’s health and well being can cause anxiety, making a parent’s role as a decision maker challenging. According to Babrow, Kasch & Ford (1998), uncertainty is a central part of the experience of illness, for the ill, their friends and for the caregivers who help them. According to Brashers (2001), uncertainty exists when details of situations are ambiguous, complex, unpredictable or potentially problematic, and is primarily a self-perception about one’s own cognitive ability or their ability to derive meaning.
The presence of uncertainty in terms of a family member’s health condition can increase in familial caregivers due to the stress and anxiety they endure when they are responsible for the healthcare decisions of their family member. As stated previously, the purpose of this proposal is to discover the major sources of uncertainty that family caregivers face during the multiple stages of their family member’s illness, in hopes that this information can assist in determining the most effective ways to manage said uncertainty. The amount of attention often devoted to the care of a family member diagnosed with a serious or fatal illness leaves family caregivers with little to no time to attend to their own health needs. This often takes a toll on the caregivers physical and mental health. According to Brashers (2001), when uncertainty regarding a major decision is viewed as a danger or threat it can cause anxiety if it precludes effective decision making and fear if it threatens health and safety.
Caring for a terminally ill family member can produce profound psychological effects, as the experience can increase anxiety and depression, cause deterioration in other relationships, and suppress professional roles and involvement in personally fulfilling and healthy activities (Higginson, 1998). The psychological effects caregivers often endure not only increase the stress and anxiety in their lives but leave caregivers with a level of uncertainty in regards to their own lives as well as the lives of the family member for which they are caring.
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