Aim: This study examines couples' experiences of living together when one partner has advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Method: Repeated qualitative interviews with four couples over an eight-month period, where one spouse in each couple suffered from advanced COPD. The final dataset comprised 19 interviews. A phenomenological-hermeneutical method was used to interpret the interview text.
Findings: One main theme, "living with the disease and one's spouse in a new and changeable life rhythm", emerged from three subthemes: "living with uncertainty", "living in a changed intimate relationship", and "finding new ways of living together". A mutual sense of companionship between the spouses facilitated their chances of reshaping their relationship and adapting it to the new life rhythm required by everyday life with the disease.
Conclusion: The healthy spouse had major responsibility for the health of their sick spouse. Awareness of the couple's own conceptions and knowledge of health and illness is central to person-focused care, as is awareness of what values are important to them when restructuring their everyday life.