Original Research

Challenges experienced by South African families caring for state patients on leave of absence

Nchaesa G. Mothwa, Miriam M. Moagi, Anna E. van der Wath
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 26 | a1453 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v26i0.1453 | © 2020 Nchaesa G. Mothwa, Miriam M. Moagi, Anna E. van der Wath | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 August 2019 | Published: 25 August 2020

About the author(s)

Nchaesa G. Mothwa, Department of Nursing Science, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Miriam M. Moagi, Department of Nursing Science, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Anna E. van der Wath, Department of Nursing Science, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Families of state patients experience challenges related to the patient’s mental illness and history of criminal behaviour. Family members who act as guardians when patients are on leave of absence take responsibility for the patient’s basic needs, activities of daily living and treatment regimen. They need to safeguard the patient from potential self-harm and harming others. Few studies have explored the burden these family members experience.

Aim: The aim of this study was to explore and describe the challenges experienced by families caring for mental state patients who are on leave of absence.

Setting: An urban area in South Africa.

Methods: A qualitative approach was applied to answer the research question, ‘what are the challenges experienced by families caring for mental state patients on leave of absence?’ A purposive sample of nine participants who were caring for state patients on leave of absence was selected. Individual in-depth interviews were used to collect data. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. Ethical considerations and trustworthiness guided the study.

Results: Three themes illustrate the challenges experienced by family members, namely, challenges related to state patient’s behaviour, emotional challenges and social challenges. A fourth theme focuses on the ways families used to cope with these challenges.

Conclusion: Mental healthcare professionals may use the results of this study to design therapeutic interventions for family members of state patients who focus on empathetic understanding and the mobilisation of effective coping skills and social support.


Keywords

burden of care; family; forensic patients; mental health; psychiatry; qualitative inquiryof care; Families of forensic patients; Forensic patients; Qualitative inquiry

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