Experiences of family carers of older people with mental health problems in the acute general hospital: a qualitative study

J Adv Nurs. 2013 Dec;69(12):2707-16. doi: 10.1111/jan.12159. Epub 2013 Apr 23.


Aims: To explore the experiences of family carers of people with cognitive impairment during admission to hospital.

Background: Providing appropriate care in acute hospitals for people with co-morbid cognitive impairment, especially dementia or delirium or both, is challenging to healthcare professionals. One key element is close working with family members.

Design: Qualitative interview study.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews with family carers of 34 older people who had been admitted to a UK general hospital and had co-morbid cognitive impairment. Interviews conducted in 2009 and 2010. Analysis was undertaken using Strauss and Corbin's framework.

Findings: The findings elaborate a core problem, 'disruption from normal routine' and a core process, 'gaining or giving a sense of control to cope with disruption'. Family carers responded to disruption proactively by trying to make sense of the situation and attempting to gain control for themselves or the patient. They tried to stay informed, communicate with staff about the patient and plan for the future. The interaction of the core problem and the core process resulted in outcomes where family members either valued the support of hospital staff and services or were highly critical of the care provided.

Conclusion: Family carers are not passive in the face of the disruption of hospitalization and respond both by trying to involve themselves in the care and support of their relative and by trying to work in partnership with members of staff. Nurses need to foster this relationship conscientiously.

Keywords: acute care; dementia; family care; gerontology; nursing; qualitative approaches.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Dementia / nursing*
  • Family / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Qualitative Research
  • United Kingdom