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Transition as Experienced by Close Relatives of People With Traumatic Brain Injury

Engström, Åsa; Söderberg, Siv

Journal of Neuroscience Nursing: October 2011 - Volume 43 - Issue 5 - p 253-260
doi: 10.1097/JNN.0b013e318227ef9b

ABSTRACT When someone is afflicted by a traumatic brain injury (TBI), it entails a sudden change in the lives of their close relatives. Relatives provide the primary support system for the person with TBI, and new living patterns have to be developed by the family to achieve balance in the new situation. There is an absence of studies focusing on the process of transition for people living close to a person with TBI, especially in a long-term relationship. The aim of this study, therefore, was to describe such transitions experienced by the close relatives of people with TBI. Five close relatives, all women, who lived with or close to a person with TBI in the northern part of Sweden, were interviewed. The data were analyzed in accordance with the qualitative interpretive method and performed in a series of steps to arrive at a description of the transition. The findings of the analysis are presented in 4 categories: the starting point of the transitions, transitions in pattern of daily life, transitions in relationship, and transitions in social life. The transitions of daily life for close relatives began suddenly as the person with TBI was injured unexpectedly. The relatives could feel lonely as former friends were gone or avoided them. How the person with TBI was met by other people strongly affected how the close relatives felt. Although they struggled to lessen the dependence of the person with TBI on them, they also felt anxious about how things would be if close relatives were no longer there for that person. The findings are discussed with reference to works by the philosophers Buber, Lévinas, and Lögstrup and theories of transition.

Questions or comments about this article may be directed to Åsa Engström, PhD RN, at She is a senior lecturer at the Department of Health Science, Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, Sweden.

Siv Söderberg, PhD RNT, is a professor at the Division of Nursing, Department of Health Science, Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, Sweden.

The authors declare there is no conflict of interest.

© 2011 American Association of Neuroscience Nurses