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Supporting carers during assessment and treatment unit admissions

Purpose – Currently there is no research that explores professionals’ perspectives in supporting carers of a person with an intellectual disability during their relatives admission to a specialist in-patient setting. The purpose of this paper is to report the findings from the second stage of a study that explored the experiences of family carers whose relative was admitted to a specialist National Health Service assessment and treatment unit (ATU) in Wales, UK (James, 2016).

Design/methodology/approach – Aim: to obtain the views of professionals in relation to what they consider are the barriers and facilitators to addressing some of the experiences discussed by carers. Methods: nine professionals working in intellectual disability-specific services participated in four semi-structured interviews and one focus group (n=5) and the data were analysed using a descriptive thematic analysis process.

Findings – Three major themes were developed to represent what professionals identified as a number of individual, organisational and practical facilitators and barriers to the provision of support to carers at this time. Professionals recognised the important role they have in developing relationships with carers during the admission. Key to this relationship is effective communication, collaboration, involvement and the need to be consistently open and honest.

Research limitations/implications – The small sample size could be said to be a weakness and unrepresentative and practice of other professionals. However, what professionals reported had similarities to the findings from other related research. Importantly, the findings have a practical significance in that they can be used to raise awareness and be used to inform the development of future research and practice. The sample could also be criticised for not having representation from a wider range of professionals from across the multi-disciplinary team. However, a strength of the sample is that it did have representation from three different professional disciplines with different roles and responsibilities.

Practical implications – Currently there is very limited research exploring the experiences of professionals in respect of supporting carers during the admission of a relative to a specialist in-patient setting. Professionals demonstrated an understanding of the impact that the additional needs and admission of their relative to an ATU could have on carers. Accordingly, they were able to recognise the important role that they, and other professionals, play in developing relationships as part of providing support to them during this time. Key to these relationships was effective communication and in particular the need to be consistently open and honest.

Social implications – The findings from this study illustrate a gap between the rhetoric of policy, legislation and carer strategies, and practice of valuing and respecting the role that carers. Of particular concern is that some of the relationships that carers have had with professionals have threatened rather than positively endorsed and augmented their role and identity. These engagements with professionals therefore have had a profound effect on the way in which they have understood their value as a carer and their own sense of self. Significantly, the actions and behaviours of professionals play a key role in shaping carers views of themselves and their identity.

Originality/value – Currently there is no research that has explored the views of professionals in respect of support and relationships with carers at this time. The synthesis of findings from stage one of this study with professionals’ perspectives of resulted in the identification of similarities and differences in experiences as well as facilitators and barriers to support provision. In so doing, it has given clear application of the studies findings to practice. This study therefore provides an original contribution to the understanding of this area of carer experience, from the perspectives of professionals and adds to the wider literature exploring the family carer experience.

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Additional Titles
Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities

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Web of science - exported 12/7/2016
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