Lived Experiences of Family Members Caring for Individuals Living with Bipolar Disorder
Globally, around a third of the adult population suffers from a mental disorder such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder (BD) is a chronic mental illness which adversely impacts the lives of the affected individuals and their family members. BD has a strong influence on family functioning. The main objective of this study was to explore and describe the lived experiences of family members who care for individuals living with BD. A qualitative research design, which is exploratory, descriptive and contextual in nature, was used in this study. A purposive sample was utilised to select family members who care for individuals living with BD to participate in the study. In-depth phenomenological interviews were conducted to collect data and observations in the form of field notes were documented. The data analysis was done using a thematic analysis. Four themes emerged from the analysis of the transcribed in-depth phenomenological interviews, namely caring for an individual living with BD was exhausting, strenuous and a continuous unasked responsibility; family members experienced their own routines being disrupted by the individual living with BD’s unpredictable behaviour and having to accompany them to appointments; family members experienced family relationships as being strained and challenged; and family members experienced the need for assistance to cope with the individuals living with BD. Strategies to facilitate the lived experiences of family members who care for individuals living with BD should be developed. The suggested strategies are facilitation of exploration of challenges by family members, self-empowerment, empowerment in relationships, and empowerment in mobilising resources.