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Keywords:

  • chronic illness;
  • self-care;
  • self-management

kralik d, price k & telford k (2010) Journal of Nursing and Healthcare of Chronic Illness2, 197–204 The meaning of self-care for people with chronic illness

Aim.  To reveal the meaning of self-care as described by men and women living with chronic conditions.

Background.  Chronic illness self-care and self-management are terms that have been used interchangeably in the literature. Self-care in the context of chronic illness has received some research attention, but remains an under-explored concept.

Methods.  Conversation data were gathered using longitudinal email groups facilitated by the first author over a 21-month period between 2003–2005, with 42 men and women living with chronic illness.

Results.  Self-care is a process of adaptation in response to learning about oneself and about ways to live well with illness. Developing capacity to self care impacted significantly on the way participants experienced illness, their view of themselves and of their future.

Conclusions.  People living with chronic illness describe the process of self-care as transformational in terms of feelings about their selves and reclaiming a sense of order. It enables them to move forward with a sense of the future. The primary health care principle of holistic assessment, taking account of the wider context of people’s lives, is of heightened importance when educating about self-care.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Health care workers can assist people by acknowledging that chronic illness self-care is a process that gradually evolves and is borne out of listening to the person’s priorities and finding ways for strategies to fit harmoniously alongside those priorities.