Helping at the bedside: Spouses' preferences for helping critically ill patients


  • Deborah Eldredge

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Nursing, Oregon Health & Science University, SN-4S, 3455 SW US Veterans Hospital Road, Portland, OR 97239
    • OHSU School of Nursing, SN-4S, 3455 SW US Veterans Hospital Road, Portland, OR 97239, USA.
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    • Assistant Professor.


Spouses of patients in intensive care units (ICU) need to be close and helpful to ill partners. According to adult attachment theory, emotional responses may be related to preferences for closeness and helpfulness, and according to control theory optimism also may influence spouses' emotional responses. Spouses' goals and helping behaviors were assessed in 88 spouses of ICU patients. Using a repeated-measures design, the relationships of closeness, helpfulness, and optimism to emotional outcomes were assessed. Preferences for closeness and helpfulness were strongly related, and together with optimism, predicted spouses' mood at some point of the illness trajectory. Spouses who were over-involved with partners' care requirements were at greater risk for emotional distress. Results suggest that closeness and helpfulness are integrated concepts, and that attachment dimensions of a relationship and optimism are useful for understanding spouses' emotional responses to critical illness. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Res Nurs Health 27:307–321, 2004