Partners of patients newly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are equally emotionally affected by the diagnosis and go through the same grieving process as the patients themselves, a new study has found.
In a discrete UK study, researchers interviewed the partners of RA patients to assess their thoughts and feelings at the time of their partners RA diagnosis and the ways that they adapted to the diagnosis, over time.
Analysing the transcripts of in-depth interviews, researchers reported that all partners of RA patients reported common issues, grouped into the following areas:
Emotions: Partners commonly expressed feelings of immense sadness for a perceived loss of the future, sadness for their experiences of their spouse, but also for themselves.
Adaptation: Several of the partners interviewed hoped for a "cure" for RA with one saying "medicine can do anything nowadays, yes it's a problem but they'll give her a tablet and it will go away." Over time however, the interviews showed that partners came to terms with the permanency of the condition.
Coping Strategies: Some partners reported experiencing feelings of denial, helplessness, and concealment of both the condition and its impact on their relationship.
Support and Information: Whilst all partners interviewed were reluctant to attend patient support groups, they acknowledged their importance, with one participant stating "I think it would be really helpful to people who are newly diagnosed but I would have to have my arm twisted to go there".
"The results of our research have shown that partners of patients are as emotionally affected as the patient by the diagnosis," said Julie Taylor, University of the West of England, Bristol, United Kingdom and lead author of the study.
"We recommend that, if clinicians and health care professional are able to offer support to the partners of patients at the time they require it, then this will create a foundation of greater support for the patients, resulting in improved emotional outcomes for both parties," Taylor added.
The study has been presented at EULAR 2010, the Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism in Rome, Italy.