A promising approach to improve mental health of mothers with technology-dependent children

Published on February 18, 2014 at 8:13 AM · No Comments

Many mothers with children on life-sustaining medical devices, such as ventilators and breathing or feeding tubes, suffer physical and psychological distress from the stress of juggling treatments, appointments, therapies and daily family pressures.

But researchers from the Case Western Reserve University nursing school found that an intervention, called "Resourcefulness," which teaches moms how to better cope, bolsters the mother's wellbeing and, in turn, benefits the whole family.

Findings from a small pilot study of 22 mothers, "Resourcefulness training intervention: A promising approach to improve mental health of mothers with technology-dependent children," were published this month in the journal of Applied Nursing Research. A National Institute of Health's Clinical and Translational Collaborative at Case Western Reserve supported the study.

Valerie Boebel Toly, of Case Western Reserve's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, directed the study with nursing school professors Carol Musil and Jaclene Zauszniewski, who had previously used the intervention to help grandmothers who are primary caregivers for their grandchildren.

Among the short eight Resourcefulness tips were organize your day to provide a family routine that works for everyone and rely on family and friends, who may want to help but are waiting to be asked.

"We wanted to see if the Resourcefulness Training intervention also worked for these mothers," Toly said.

The researchers found that it did. The intervention had a positive effect on the mothers' mental health. In particular, mothers experienced a decrease in negative emotions and depressive cognitions.

Toly recalled one mother commented that, for the first time, she felt she had someone coming alongside her during her day—even though most of the interactions with researchers were weekly phone calls to discuss the mother's needs.

Mothers care for about 20 percent of pediatric patients who are discharged from hospitals but remain dependent on some form of life-sustaining medical devices at home.

Because of the physical and emotional demands of caring for their child, many mothers struggle with poor physical health and depression, she said.

The researchers hoped to reduce their distress by focusing intervention training on two areas: social (help-seeking) and personal (self-help) skills.

Researchers recruited mothers with children on life-sustaining devices from the pulmonary and gastroenterology clinics at a Midwestern children's hospital. The mothers were primarily Caucasian, had an average age of 41, and an annual family income of $41,000 to $80,000.

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