The experiences of spouses living with clinically depressed partners
This study explored the lived experience of spouses living with depressed partners. A qualitative phenomenological, exploratory study design was used to explore the lived experience of the spouses, identifying the coping strategies and challenges that they face as they live with the depressed partners. A purposive sample of seven spouses living with their depressed partners who were being treated in outpatient department were recruited to participate in the study. In-depth, face-to-face interviews were conducted, audiotaped with the participants’ permission and transcribed verbatim. The data from the transcripts, field notes, and demographic questionnaires was organized ready for analysis. Thematic data analysis was used to code the data, and group the codes to form categories. The categories were further regrouped to form themes. The themes were conceptualized and contextualized to uncover the meaning that the spouse carers attached to the lived experience. It emerged that most of the spouses described their partners and the relationship negatively due to the burden of care. The male carers as compared to the female carers expressed the negativity more and it impacted on the quality of care they were providing to the depressed partners. It was revealed that inadequate professional support was linked with the ineffective coping strategies employed by the spouse carers. Hence, most of the spouse carers presented with symptoms of depression and were at the stage of impoverishment according to the adaptive potential assessment model. A recommendation to involve spouse carers in the treatment plan and improve the support system to the spouse carers was made to the stakeholders of health service providers at the primary health level.