200117 Being in- or out-of-sync: A qualitative study of couples' adaptation to change in multiple sclerosis

Monday, November 9, 2009: 11:24 AM

Kurt L. Johnson, PhD , Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Helene Starks, PhD , Department of Bioethics and Humanities, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Megan Morris, MSCCC , Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Kathy Yorkston, PhD , Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Robin Gray, PhD, LMFT , Private Practice, Seattle, WA
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight couples, each with one partner diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The purpose of the interviews was to examine how couples adapt to the challenges of MS, and to explore how participants defined and identified the strengths and challenges in their relationship, negotiated role changes and received external support. Conceptual frameworks on how families adapt to chronic illness guided within and across case analyses. We identified patterns in the couples' current responses to the demands and stressors of MS.

Two patterns of adaptation to MS were identified as being ‘in-sync' or ‘out-of-sync'. Characteristics of the four couples currently in-sync included having a relapsing-remitting type of MS, which proceeded at a pace that enabled both partners to maintain their social roles and identity, and a collaborative problem solving style. The four couples currently out-of-sync had a rapid progression of MS, loss of employment before retirement age, differences in personal styles that shifted from being complementary to oppositional in the face of increased demands, and struggles with parenting adolescent children.

Clinicians can use these data to assess possible relational strain in couples with MS and identify families who might benefit from referrals to family therapy or other relational support. Interventions can be targeted at couples at risk for becoming out-of-sync in order to increase the social support, health, and well-being of both the individual with MS and his/her partner.

Learning Objectives:
1.To examine how couples adapt to the challenges of multiple sclerosis (MS). 2.To identify possible risk factors for relational stress. 3.To discuss the benefits of understanding relationship status in couples’ living with MS.

Keywords: Disability, Caregivers

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been conducting rehabilitation research for 25 years and am a professor in the department of rehabilitation medicine.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

See more of: Mental Health and Disability
See more of: Disability