Experiences and coping strategies of women caring for their husbands with cancer at the Cancer Diseases Hospital in Lusaka, Zambia: a descriptive phenomenological approach

13 Jul 2023
Patience Mbozi, Patricia Katowa Mukwato, Victoria Mwiinga Kalusopa, Christopher Simoonga

The Cancer Diseases Hospital (CDH) 2019 annual report revealed an upsurge in the number of new cancer patients accessing services from 35 patients in 2006 to 3,008 in 2019. This study explored the experiences and coping strategies of women caring for their husbands with cancer attending the CDH. A phenomenological research design was used with stratified purposeful sampling. Data were collected using an interview schedule and analysed using thematic analysis. The women’s challenges included mobility difficulties and hospital admissions/problems; socio-economic problems, psychological and emotional distress; and caregiving liability and spiritual anguish. The benefits that female spouses experienced during caring for their loved ones included knowledge about cancer and infection prevention, a strong marital relationship, tolerance and perseverance, resilience and hope and good relationship with other caregivers. The women’s needs included financial support, physical needs, psychosocial counselling, caregiver accommodation, time off from caregiving, information needs and sexual intimacy and contact. Their coping strategies included spiritual support from spiritual carers, prayer and meditation, music and storytelling, social support and a good marital relationship. The findings demonstrate that wives of patients with cancer experience many challenges in their caring journey. Nurses must anticipate and/or intervene as part of their nursing practice to reduce the negative impact on female caretakers in this situation. Hospital standard operating procedures must be developed to put both the patients and their caregivers at the centre of oncology nursing care, particularly in settings with limited allied professional support, e.g., psychologists. Caretaker coping strategies highlighted in this study must be made available for both the patients and their wives, e.g., linking wives to trained spiritual carers upon their husband’s admission to the hospital, to aid a smooth caregiving experience.

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