BACKGROUND: Spouses have a key position in the treatment of patients with acute leukemia (AL) who are increasingly managed in an outpatient setting. Patients live at home but appear at the hospital every second day for follow-up visits. Patients must adhere to specific precautions due to an impaired immune system, which challenges and influence the life of the whole family. This qualitative study, based on individual and group interviews with spouses to AL patients in curative intended treatment, elucidates how the intense and substantial caregiver role affects the everyday lives of spouses to AL patients in curative intended treatment.
METHODS: Qualitative semi-structured group interviews (n = 6) and individual interviews (n = 5) with spouses to AL patients were conducted at different time points during the whole course of treatment. Theories of everyday life served as the theoretical framework.
RESULTS: The spouses described their life as a constant state of vigilance and attention as a consequence of the responsibility they felt arising from the treatment in the outpatient setting. These made them experience their role as a burden. The social life of the spouses and the families suffered substantially due to the precautions that were instated in the home. However, many experienced that relations in the family were developed positively.
CONCLUSIONS: Close relatives experience additional psychosocial burdens instigated by the outpatient management regimens. This is important knowledge for the health care system to include in future development of AL outpatient settings, to prioritize and support offers to the relatives that recognize their sense of burden. This could apply not only to relatives of AL patients but to the relatives of other severely ill patients as well.