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      Frustrated Caring: Family Members’ Experience of Motivating COPD Patients Towards Self-Management

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          The aim of this phenomenological study was to explore principal family members’ experience of motivating patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) towards self-management.


          Interviews were conducted with 10 family members (spouses and adult children) of COPD patients. The interviews were audio recorded, transcribed and analyzed thematically.


          Being a principal family member of a COPD patient is characterized by frustrated caring; wanting the best for him/her and yet carrying a heavier burden than the person feels equipped for, lacking both knowledge about the disease progress and information about available healthcare resources. The situation demands much energy, due to COPD patients’ lack of stamina; family members’ fear of the patient’s possible breathlessness; willingness to help, though sometimes meeting with negative reactions from the patient; and feeling ignored by health professionals (HPs). Family members expressed a need for a formal connection between patient–family–HPs. The increasing burden experienced by patients’ family members is characterized by a sequential process in three phases of the patient’s declining self-management. In the early phase, family and patient are ignorant of COPD yet recognize the patient’s smoking as a risky lifestyle. In the intermediary phase, signs of COPD become evident to the family. The first turning point is when the family first observes the patient’s acute exacerbation. A second turning point is in the advanced phase, when family and patient recognize COPD as a progressive disease, possibly fatal. We also identified family members’ views on COPD patients’ needs, and their own roles, main frustrations and concerns.


          Family members’ experience of motivating COPD patients towards self-management is a sequential process where the family experiences advancing caring burden and declining self-management by the patient. We propose the establishment of COPD patients’ teams consisting of patient–family–HP, aimed at the patients’ best possible self-management.

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          Most cited references 35

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          Definition of a COPD self-management intervention: International Expert Group consensus.

          There is an urgent need for consensus on what defines a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) self-management intervention. We aimed to obtain consensus regarding the conceptual definition of a COPD self-management intervention by engaging an international panel of COPD self-management experts using Delphi technique features and an additional group meeting.In each consensus round the experts were asked to provide feedback on the proposed definition and to score their level of agreement (1=totally disagree; 5=totally agree). The information provided was used to modify the definition for the next consensus round. Thematic analysis was used for free text responses and descriptive statistics were used for agreement scores.In total, 28 experts participated. The consensus round response rate varied randomly over the five rounds (ranging from 48% (n=13) to 85% (n=23)), and mean definition agreement scores increased from 3.8 (round 1) to 4.8 (round 5) with an increasing percentage of experts allocating the highest score of 5 (round 1: 14% (n=3); round 5: 83% (n=19)).In this study we reached consensus regarding a conceptual definition of what should be a COPD self-management intervention, clarifying the requisites for such an intervention. Operationalisation of this conceptual definition in the near future will be an essential next step.
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            Caring for a person in advanced illness and suffering from breathlessness at home: threats and resources.

            Little is known about the factors that mediate the caregiving experience of informal carers at home, which could inform about ways of supporting them in their caregiving role. Our objective was to investigate the caring experience of carers for patients with an advanced progressive illness (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD], heart failure, cancer, or motor neuron diseases [MND]), who suffer from breathlessness. A purposive sample of 15 carers was selected. They were recruited via the patients they cared for (who suffered from COPD, cancer, MND, or heart failure) from the hospital and the community. Data were collected through semistructured, in-depth interviews. All were tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim. The analysis used a Grounded Theory approach and NVivo software facilitated the management and analysis of the data. Several key issues affected caring in a positive or a negative way. The threats to caring were uncertainty, carers' own health problems, an imploded world, negative reactions from outside, person loss, and acute exacerbations. Resources that carers drew on were acceptance, self-care, availability of support, feeling that caring is a shared responsibility with the patient, and "getting on with" caring in case of emergencies. Breathlessness was particularly challenging, and carers did not have any strategies to relieve the symptom. They were ill prepared for acute exacerbations. Carers need to be included in opportunities for support provision in advanced illness. Negotiated involvement of a health professional could buffer the heavy responsibilities related to home care. They could provide problem-solving skills and build on the resources that carers draw on in response to what they experience as most threatening to their caring role.
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              Involvement of informal caregivers in supporting patients with COPD: a review of intervention studies

              Caregivers of individuals with COPD have a key role in maintaining patient adherence and optimizing patient function. However, no systematic review has examined how the caregiver role has been operationalized in interventions to improve outcomes of individuals with COPD or the quality or effectiveness of these interventions. The aims of this review were to 1) determine whether caregivers have been involved as part of interventions to improve outcomes of individuals with COPD; 2) determine the risk of bias within included intervention studies; and 3) examine the effectiveness of interventions that have involved caregivers in improving outcomes of individuals with COPD. The electronic databases of Medline, Embase, PsycINFO, and Cochrane Library were searched from January 2000 to November 2015. Experimental studies testing interventions that involved a caregiver to improve COPD patient outcomes were eligible. Nine studies involving caregivers met inclusion criteria. No studies reported any intervention components targeted solely at caregivers, with most instead including caregivers in dyadic or group education sessions about COPD delivered by health care professionals. The risk of bias identified in included studies was mixed. Seven of the nine studies were effective in improving a broad range of outcomes. These findings highlight that there is an urgent need for methodologically rigorous interventions to examine the effectiveness of strategies to assist caregivers to provide direct care, encourage adherence to health care provider recommendations, act as a health care advocate, and provide emotional and psychosocial support to individuals with COPD.

                Author and article information

                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
                17 November 2020
                : 15
                : 2953-2965
                [1 ]University of Iceland , Medical Faculty, Reykjavik, Iceland
                [2 ]Reykjalundur Rehabilitation Center , Lung Department, Mosfellsbaer, Iceland
                [3 ]University of Akureyri , School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Graduate Studies, Akureyri, Iceland
                [4 ]Akureyri Hospital , Department of Rehabilitation, Akureyri, Iceland
                [5 ]Uppsala University, Department of Medical Sciences, Respiratory-, Allergy- and Sleep Research , Uppsala, Sweden
                [6 ]Landspitali University Hospital , Department of Respiratory Medicine, Reykjavik, Iceland
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Jonina Sigurgeirsdottir Reykjalundur Rehabilitation Center, Lung Department , Mosfellsbaer270, IcelandTel +354 6261740 Email
                © 2020 Sigurgeirsdottir et al.

                This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms (

                Page count
                Figures: 3, Tables: 5, References: 35, Pages: 13
                Original Research


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