This qualitative study explored the views of spouse carers in relation to the emotional impact of caring for a partner with a chronic or terminal illness. The study population consisted of nine full-time spouse carers, recruited using a snowball sampling strategy.
Semi-structured interviews took place in the carers’ homes. These were recorded and transcribed verbatim. The data were then analysed using constant comparative analysis. Themes identified included the emotional and physical health of the carer, personality changes in the spouse, relationship issues, denial, anticipating death, accessing support and coping strategies. Findings indicate that these carers experienced a whole range of feelings and emotions, which impacted on their health and well-being. They included fatigue, stress, distress, anxiety, depression, feelings of isolation and suicidal thoughts. These were particularly profound around the time of diagnosis, end of treatment, during a relapse and most particularly around the time of death. An increasing number of terminally ill people are now expressing a preference to be cared for at home. The potential risks to the health of caregivers therefore need to be taken into account. This study highlights the importance of assessing the needs of carers in order to identify those at risk of compromised health, which would then allow those requiring support to be offered prompt referral to specialist services.