How women caregivers deal with their own long-term illness: a qualitative study




To explore the strategies used by women caregivers to deal with their own chronic health conditions.


Providing care has a negative impact on the physical and mental health of caregivers. When caregivers suffer chronic health problems, it increases the burden of caring, making them more vulnerable and less likely to look after their own health.


Qualitative study carried out between April 2010–December 2011.


Thirty-nine women with long-term illness who care for dependent family members took part in the study, 23 in semi-structured interviews and 16 in two focus groups. The data were analysed using the grounded theory method.


Women caregivers feel that they cannot let their own chronic health problems prevent them from caring for others. Dealing with their health problems enables them to provide the time and effort their family member requires. They do this by: (1) normalizing their chronic conditions; (2) neutralizing the effects of their long-term illness; and (3) forgetting that they are chronic sufferers.


This study analyses the strategies that family caregivers use to deal with their own chronic health problems, so that they can continue to provide family care. It shows that, to forget about their own illnesses, these women must take charge of them. Nurses need to recognize and value the strategies that caregivers use to deal with their own health problems. They also need to encourage them to use the most effective strategies, to improve their quality of life.