Date of Award
Master of Social Work (MSW)
Chronic Pain affects all aspects of a person's life. It can reshape his or her identity, the roles they play within the family system and it can affect their capacity to earn income, to name just a few examples. With such a wide range of changes, obviously family members are to expect some changes as well. To date, most of the research has focused on how the family can help the adjustment of the pain patient. Some research explores how the mental state of a spouse may be implicated. Very little has been done to explore how the family copes: what they see as the important changes, how they feel about and respond to having chronic pain in their lives.
In this research I spoke with six individuals who were close to someone with chronic pain. For some it was the first opportunity they have had to discuss their feelings on an issue that has been a major part of their lives for several years. Four wives and two daughters were interviewed. What came from their stories was a sense of loss that they were no longer able to participate in the same activities, in the same manner, together as they had before the onset of pain. There was a sense of loss in intimacy, shared lives, even in their dreams and expectations of the future. They reported that in some cases the ability of the pain patient to parent was undermined as the pain patient was overwhelmed by just getting through the day with their pain.
However, in each of their stories the families had learned to adjust and move forward in their lives. They found ways to make it work, even if it was not as they would have liked. Finally, they made suggestions for others who are going through similar struggles, identifying what helped and what might have helped had the support been available.
This study confirmed that the entire family system can be significantly impacted by chronic pain in one of the members of the family. It also draws attention to the constraints family members of chronic pain patients face in expressing their own experiences and frustrations - constraints that professionals in the field must challenge.
Titterson, Aprile Caroline, "Living with Chronic Pain: the experiences of family members" (2008). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 4821.
McMaster University Library