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Sharing life with a gluten-intolerant person – the perspective of close relatives


Annette Sverker, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Social Medicine, The Sahlgrenska Academy at Göteborg University, PO Box 453, SE – 405 30 Göteborg, Sweden.
Tel.: + 46 31 786 68 74
Fax: +46 31 162 847


Background  Several studies indicate the importance of social support in the case of chronic disease.

Aim  The aim was to explore dilemmas experienced by close relatives living with a person suffering from coeliac disease, and to describe the strategies they used to deal with these dilemmas.

Methods  Twenty-three informants were interviewed. A systematic inductive qualitative method, the critical incident technique was used.

Results  Disease-related worries included having bad conscience about not being affected by the disease, experiencing anxiety and witnessing the vulnerability of the affected relative in social situations. Dilemmas related to manage daily life were connected with increased domestic work, restricted freedom of action and the diseased person’s preferential right of interpretation of health risks associated with the coeliac disease and deviations from the diet restrictions. Dilemmas related to disturbances in social life, concerned lack of information, knowledge and understanding. Different strategies were described to manage daily life.

Conclusions  Close relatives experienced a variety of dilemmas that affected the situation of the whole family. The role of relatives in handling the coeliac disease with the diseased person in the everyday life might be underestimated, and to provide relatives with better knowledge regarding the disease might improve the situation also for patients.