A qualitative investigation of perceptions of stress and coping strategies employed by caregivers of individuals with a traumatic brain injury in KwaZulu-Natal : a retrospective study.
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Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are a major health and socio-economic concern which negatively impacts communities worldwide (Maas, Stocchetti & Bullock 2008; Udoh & Adeyemo, 2013). Although most traumatic brain injury survivors recover completely, approximately 10-15 % may continue to experience physical, cognitive and emotional disturbances well beyond the expected recovery period (Mokhosi & Grieve, 2004). In South Africa, access to care facilities and rehabilitation is costly and limited. Thus, the patient’s family members are usually left to care for the patient at home (Webster, Taylor & Balchin, 2015). The process of adapting to the caregiver role as well as performing caregiver duties can be stressful for family members (Degeneffe, 2001). This is because the patient’s accident is usually unexpected and performing caregiver duties or rehabilitation activities may also be unfamiliar (Chronister, 2010). The aim of the present study was to investigate the experiences of caregivers of TBI patients to better understand which situations were perceived to be particularly stressful and which coping strategies were commonly adopted. Following a qualitative approach, semi-structured interviews were conducted with six participants. The findings of the present study were generally consistent with the findings of previous similar studies, with some unique contributions (Rawlins-Alderman, 2014; Verhaeghe, Defloor & Grypdonk 2005; Bond, Draeger, Mandleco & Donnelly, 2003; Minnes, Graffi, Nolte, Carlson & Harrick, 2000; Degeneffe, 2001). The caregiver stressors that were frequently reported included hospital experiences, sequelae of TBI, caregiver responsibilities, social networks, financial burden and limited resources. In attempt to better manage these stressors, the caregivers reportedly adopted both problem-focused and emotion-focused coping strategies. The outcomes of the current study may contribute towards positively supporting the caregiver experience and developing intervention programs that benefit both TBI survivors and their families in the future.