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Caregivers experienced 6 phases in coping over time with severe and persistent mental illness in a family member

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QUESTION: What processes or phases do caregivers experience in caring for a family member with severe and persistent mental illness?


Qualitative study done within a theoretical framework of symbolic interaction and dramaturgical interviewing.


Central midwestern USA.


26 people (69% women, 100% white) aged 40−76 years (mean age 56 y) who had participated in a 36 hour psychoeducational course, had a family member with a severe and persistent mental illness, and had been assisting their family member with the management of the mental illness for several years. Mentally ill family members ranged in age from 18 to 73 years (mean age 33 y) and were usually offspring.


26 semistructured interviews, each lasting 1.5−2 hours, were done using a flexible and indepth questioning method. Participants were interviewed until no new themes or phases emerged. …

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  • Source of funding: no external funding.

  • For correspondence: Dr S A Muhlbauer, University of Nebraska College of Nursing, Omaha, NE, USA. smuhlbau{at}