Experience of social support in rehabilitation: a phenomenological study
The progressive muscular weakness brought on by muscular dystrophy causes the sufferer many problems in everyday life. Earlier studies in Sweden have shown that adults with hereditary muscular dystrophy often have difficulty in gaining access to rehabilitation. For this reason a special rehabilitation programme was drawn up and carried out, extending over a period of 18 months. The purpose of the study is to describe the participants’ experience of social support in connection with the programme. Thirty-seven participants (21 women and 16 men) were interviewed. The analytical method was phenomenological, incorporating validation by independent judges. Nine overall themes emerged from the interviews: psychosocial support, meeting other people with muscular dystrophy, knowledge and learning, adjustment in daily life, coping with illness-related problems, adjustment at work, management of physical disability, medical examination and treatment, and involvement of relatives. The results indicate that the participants encountered staff with a sense of commitment and felt themselves to be ‘seen and confirmed’. From the discussions and the contact with others in the same situation there arises a sense of affinity and a better understanding of one’s own situation. There was appreciation of the education about the disease, its hereditary aspect, technical aids, grants and physical training. Hardly any of the participants spoke of knowing such things before. In conclusion there was approval of the received support, and recognition that persons with muscular dystrophy should be given access to recurrent rehabilitation.