Family member as a hospital patient: Sentiments and functioning of the family


Correspondence: PäiviÅstedt-Kurki Professor, Department of Nursing Science, University of Tampere, Box 607 FIN-33101, Tampere, Finland. Fax: + 358 3215 6665; Email: <>


The aim of this pilot study was to find out how families experience the hospitalization of one family member and to chart the participation of the family in the treatment of the hospitalized family member. A questionnaire was used to gather data for the study and the three open-ended questions in the questionnaire were interpreted using content analysis. The study population (n = 70) was the family members of patients in the neurological wards of Tampere University Hospital. The study demonstrated a variety of negative sentiments in the families, such as worry, fear, shock, anxiety and depression at the hospitalization of their family member. The families also expressed neutral and positive sentiments, such as approval, relief and faith in the help given. Nearly 80% of the families’ statements dealt with emotional responses. Changes in the everyday life of the family caused by the hospitalization of a family member were also reported, with most changes affecting the immediate family. Hospital visits gave a rhythm to family life. There were changes in the sharing of housework and taking care of affairs, as well as in relationships within the family. Family members spoke of their loneliness, fear and longing. External changes in family life were present in 13% of statements. Helping the patient in hospital involved functions like participation in nursing care, taking the patient to the cafeteria and rehabilitation. Only 20% of statements dealt with emotional support for the patient. Future research could broaden the perspective to include the views of patients, nurses and doctors on the reality of family nursing.