Children's and young people's experiences of a parent's critical illness and admission to the intensive care unit: A qualitative meta-synthesis

Lise H MacEachnie, Hanne B Larsen, Ingrid Egerod

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Little is known about how children and young people experience and manage the critical illness of a parent and a parent's admission to the intensive care unit (ICU).

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to search and interpret the existing literature describing children's and young people's experiences of a parent's illness trajectory in the ICU.

METHOD: A qualitative meta-synthesis was conducted based on a systematic literature search of online databases.

FINDINGS: Four main themes were identified and synthesised to describe the integrated experiences of children and young people: (a) the parent-child bond, (b) the unfamiliar environment, (c) the impact of the illness and (d) the experience of being overseen as close family members.

CONCLUSION: Experiencing a parent's critical illness and admittance to the ICU is overwhelming. The bond between the parent and child is exposed by the separation from the ill parent. To comprehend and manage the experience, children and young people seek information depending on their individual capacities. They express a need to be close to their ill parent and to be seen and approached as close members of the family. However, children experience being overseen in their needs for support during their parent's ICU illness with the risk of being left in loneliness, sadness and lack of understanding of the parent's illness.

RELEVANCE FOR CLINICAL PRACTICE: Children and young people as relatives need to be acknowledged as close members of the family, when facing the illness trajectory of a parent, who is admitted to the ICU. They need to be seen as close family members and to be approached in their needs for support in order to promote their well-being during a family illness crisis. Early supportive interventions tailored to include children of the intensive care patient are recommended.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Volume27
Issue number15-16
Pages (from-to)2923-2932
Number of pages10
ISSN0962-1067
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018

Keywords

  • Child
  • Child of Impaired Parents/psychology
  • Critical Care/psychology
  • Critical Illness
  • Family/psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Patient Admission
  • Qualitative Research

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