BACKGROUND: Chronic conditions can lead to physical, cognitive and social decline; thus, increasing an individual's dependence on family who assist with activities of daily living. Interprofessional collaborative practice (IPCP), involving two or more health professionals working with the patient and their family, is one model of care for the high-quality management of individuals with chronic conditions in primary care. Nevertheless, family carers have reported a disconnect between themselves and healthcare providers in previous research. This study aimed to explore the experiences and perspectives of family carers for individuals with chronic conditions, regarding their involvement in IPCP.
METHODS: Aspects of constructivist grounded theory methodology were used. Family carers of individuals with chronic conditions were invited to participate in a one-on-one, semistructured interview about their experiences with IPCP in the care of their loved one. Interview transcripts were analysed using Charmaz's four-step iterative process: (1) line-by-line coding, (2) focused coding, (3) categorisation of codes and (4) potential theme and subtheme development with memo writing to support each phase of analysis. The research team collaborated on reflexivity exercises, the conceptualisation of categories and the development of themes.
RESULTS: Constructivist data analysis of interviews (average 40 min) with 10 family carers resulted in two themes. (1) Stepping in for my loved one represents the notion that carers take on external roles on behalf of their loved ones (subthemes: working with interprofessional teams, supporting independence and learning as I go). (2) Taking on the carer role, represents the internal factors that influence the external roles described in theme 1 (subthemes: feeling obligated to be involved and changing relationship dynamics).
CONCLUSION: This study outlines the external actions and internal influences on family carer involvement in an interprofessional team. The required knowledge and support to care for their loved ones is currently learned in an ad hoc manner, and carers' resources should be better promoted by health professionals. Additionally, the relationship dynamics between a carer and their loved one change as the carer becomes more involved in IPCP and influences how and the extent health professionals involve family carers.
PATIENT OR PUBLIC CONTRIBUTION: Carers were the study population involved in this qualitative study. Patient advocates who have chronic conditions, and are informal family carers, were involved in the creation and design of this study, including a review of the research question, participant information sheet and the interview guide.