Health within illness: experiences of the chronically ill/disabled




Liz, Lindsey

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Chronic illnesses and disabilities are the number one health problems in North America, and are the health challenges of this era. Many studies have investigated the illness experience for people with chronic conditions, but little is known about how people with chronic conditions experience feeling healthy. Recent studies indicate that people with chronic illnesses/disabilities perceive themselves to be predominantly healthy. What follows from these studies is the need to know more about how health is experienced by this client group. The purpose of this study was to investigate this phenomena of health within illness. Specifically, the research question was: What is the meaning of feeling healthy for people with chronic illnesses/disabilities. An interpretive phenomenological investigation was undertaken with eight participants living with a variety of different chronic conditions. The results of this study provide two important findings. First, the participants described their healing journey which brought them to the experience of feeling healthy, and seven essential themes emerged to describe this healing experience. These themes included; (a) In the Beginning, (b) Hitting the Wall, (c) Turning Around, (d) Letting Go, (e) Opening Up, (f) Letting In, and (g) The Gift. Second, the participants described their experience of feeling healthy and six themes emerged to describe this experience. These themes included; (a) Honouring the Self, (b) Seeking and Connecting with Others, (c) Creating Opportunities, (d) Celebrating Life, (e) Transcending the Self, and (f) Acquiring a State of Grace. The rigor of this study was considered to by attending to the auditability, credibility, applicability and confirmability of this research method and results. The results of this research were then compared to theories of growth and change as a result of crisis, theories of developing consciousness, self identity, social support, hardiness and resilience. Also, these results were compared with other definitions of health. Recommendations were made for further research and theory development regarding the conceptualization of health within illness. Finally, the implications of incorporating a health within illness perspective for clients, nurses, and the health care system were discussed. The reconceptualization to include the experience of health within illness would contribute to an expanded focus for client care, and to the promotion of health.



Chronically ill, Attitudes, People with disabilities, Health attitudes