Living with uncertainty and hope: A qualitative study exploring parents' experiences of living with childhood multiple sclerosis.
Background There is growing recognition that multiple sclerosis is a possible, albeit uncommon, diagnosis in childhood. However, very little is known about the experiences of families living with childhood multiple sclerosis and this is the first study to explore this in depth. Objective Our objective was to explore the experiences of parents of children with multiple sclerosis. Methods Qualitative in-depth interviews with 31 parents using a grounded theory approach were conducted. Parents were sampled and recruited via health service and voluntary sector organisations in the United Kingdom. Results Parents' accounts of life with childhood multiple sclerosis were dominated by feelings of uncertainty associated with four sources; diagnostic uncertainty, daily uncertainty, interaction uncertainty and future uncertainty. Parents attempted to manage these uncertainties using specific strategies, which could in turn create further uncertainties about their child's illness. However, over time, ongoing uncertainty appeared to give parents hope for their child's future with multiple sclerosis. Conclusion Illness-related uncertainties appear to play a role in generating hope among parents of a child with multiple sclerosis. However, this may lead parents to avoid sources of information and support that threatens their fragile optimism. Professionals need to be sensitive to the role hope plays in supporting parental coping with childhood multiple sclerosis.
Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust