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1.  Narratives Reflecting the Lived Experiences of People with Brain Disorders: Common Psychosocial Difficulties and Determinants 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e96890.
Background
People with brain disorders - defined as both, mental disorders and neurological disorders experience a wide range of psychosocial difficulties (PSDs) (e.g., concentrating, maintaining energy levels, and maintaining relationships). Research evidence is required to show that these PSDs are common across brain disorders.
Objectives
To explore and gain deeper understanding of the experiences of people with seven brain disorders (alcohol dependency, depression, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, stroke). It examines the common PSDs and their influencing factors.
Methods
Seventy seven qualitative studies identified in a systematic literature review and qualitative data derived from six focus groups are used to generate first-person narratives representing seven brain disorders. A theory-driven thematic analysis of these narratives identifies the PSDs and their influencing factors for comparison between the seven disorders.
Results
First-person narratives illustrate realities for people with brain disorders facilitating a deeper understanding of their every-day life experiences. Thematic analysis serves to highlight the commonalities, both of PSDs, such as loneliness, anger, uncertainty about the future and problems with work activities, and their determinants, such as work opportunities, trusting relationships and access to self-help groups.
Conclusions
The strength of the methodology and the narratives is that they provide the opportunity for the reader to empathise with people with brain disorders and facilitate deeper levels of understanding of the complexity of the relationship of PSDs, determinants and facilitators. The latter reflect positive aspects of the lives of people with brain disorders. The result that many PSDs and their influencing factors are common to people with different brain disorders opens up the door to the possibility of using cross-cutting interventions involving different sectors. This strengthens the message that ‘a great deal can be done’ to improve the lived experience of persons with brain disorders when medical interventions are exhausted.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0096890
PMCID: PMC4013080  PMID: 24805128
2.  Social support needs for equity in health and social care: a thematic analysis of experiences of people with chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis 
Background
Needs-based resource allocation is fundamental to equitable care provision, which can meet the often-complex, fluctuating needs of people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME). This has posed challenges both for those providing and those seeking support providers, in building shared understanding of the condition and of actions to address it. This qualitative study reports on needs for equity in health and social care expressed by adults living with CFS/ME.
Methods
The participants were 35 adults with CFS/ME in England, purposively selected to provide variation in clinical presentations, social backgrounds and illness experiences. Accounts of experienced needs and needs-related encounters with health and social services were obtained through a focus group (n = 6) and semi-structured interviews (n = 35). These were transcribed and needs related topics identified through data-led thematic analysis.
Findings
Participants emphasised needs for personalised, timely and sustained support to alleviate CFS/ME impacts and regain life control, in three thematic areas: (1) Illness symptoms, functional limitations and illness management; (2) practical support and social care; (3) financial support. Access of people with CFS/ME to support from health and social services was seen to be constrained by barriers stemming from social, cultural, organisational and professional norms and practices, further heightened for disadvantaged groups including some ethnic minorities. These reduced opportunities for their illness to be explained or associated functional limitations and social disadvantages to be addressed through social support. Participants sought more understanding of bio-psycho-social aspects of CFS/ME, of felt needs of people with CFS/ME and of human rights and disability rights, for providing person-centred, equitable care.
Conclusions
Changes in attitudes of health practitioners, policy makers and general public and more flexibly organised health and social care provision are needed to address equity issues in support needs expressed by people with CFS/ME, to be underpinned by research-based knowledge and communication, for public and professional education. Policy development should include shared decision-making and coordinated action across organizations working for people with CFS/ME, human rights and disadvantaged groups. Experiences of people with CFS/ME can usefully inform an understanding of equity in their health and social care.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-10-46
PMCID: PMC3229491  PMID: 22044797
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis; thematic analysis; social support; experiences; recognition; social welfare
3.  Chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) in adults: a qualitative study of perspectives from professional practice 
BMC Family Practice  2010;11:89.
Background
Chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) can cause profound and prolonged illness and disability, and poses significant problems of uncertainty for healthcare professionals in its diagnosis and management. The aim of this qualitative study was to explore the nature of professional 'best practice' in working with people with CFS/ME.
Methods
The views and experiences of health care practitioners (HCPs) were sought, who had been judged by people with CFS/ME themselves to have been particularly helpful and effective. Qualitative semi-structured interviews following a topic guide were carried out with six health care practitioners. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed and subject to thematic analysis.
Results
Five main themes were developed: 1) Diagnosis; 2) Professional perspectives on living with CFS/ME; 3) Interventions for treatment and management; 4) Professional values and support for people with CFS/ME and their families; 5) Health professional roles and working practices. Key findings related to: the diagnostic process, especially the degree of uncertainty which may be shared by primary care physicians and patients alike; the continued denial in some quarters of the existence of CFS/ME as a condition; the variability, complexity, and serious impact of the condition on life and living; the onus on the person with CFS/ME to manage their condition, supported by HCPs; the wealth of often conflicting and confusing information on the condition and options for treatment; and the vital role of extended listening and trustful relationships with patients.
Conclusions
While professional frustrations were clearly expressed about the variability of services both in primary and specialist care and continuing equivocal attitudes to CFS/ME as a condition, there were also strong positive messages for people with CFS/ME where the right services are in place. Many of the findings from these practitioners seen by their patients as helping them more effectively, accord with the existing literature identifying the particular importance of listening skills, respect and trust for establishing a therapeutic relationship which recognises key features of the patient trajectory and promotes effective person-centred management of this complex condition. These findings indicate the need to build such skills and knowledge more systematically into professional training informed by the experience of specialist services and those living with the condition.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-11-89
PMCID: PMC2994803  PMID: 21078171
4.  The expressed needs of people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis: A systematic review 
BMC Public Health  2009;9:458.
Background
We aimed to review systematically the needs for support in managing illness and maintaining social inclusion expressed by people with chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME)
Methods
We carried out a systematic review of primary research and personal ('own') stories expressing the needs of people with CFS/ME. Structured searches were carried out on Medline, AMED, CINAHL, EMBASE, ASSIA, CENTRAL, and other health, social and legal databases from inception to November 2007. Study inclusion, data extraction and risk of bias were assessed independently in duplicate. Expressed needs were tabulated and a conceptual framework developed through an iterative process.
Results
Thirty two quantitative and qualitative studies, including the views of over 2500 people with CFS/ME with mainly moderate or severe illness severity, met the inclusion criteria. The following major support needs emerged: 1) The need to make sense of symptoms and gain diagnosis, 2) for respect and empathy from service providers, 3) for positive attitudes and support from family and friends, 4) for information on CFS/ME, 5) to adjust views and priorities, 6) to develop strategies to manage impairments and activity limitations, and 7) to develop strategies to maintain/regain social participation.
Conclusions
Although the studies were heterogeneous, there was consistent evidence that substantial support is needed to rebuild lives. Gaining support depends - most importantly - on the ability of providers of health and social care, colleagues, friends and relatives, and those providing educational and leisure services, to understand and respond to those needs.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-458
PMCID: PMC2799412  PMID: 20003363

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