Experiences and views of carers regarding the physical health care of people with severe mental illness: An integrative thematic review of qualitative research

Lok Lam Ho, Yan Li, Richard Gray, Grace W.K. Ho, Daniel Bressington

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

What is known on the subject?: People with severe mental illness (SMI) have high rates of physical illnesses, and carers are core partners in managing their physical health. Qualitative research on carers' views/experiences of physical health care is limited, and there is no published systematic review that synthesizes the current evidence. 

What the paper adds to existing knowledge?: Carers' views from seven articles were synthesised into nine themes and six subthemes describing their perceived facilitators, barriers and roles regarding the physical health care of people with SMI. Carers' voiced similar concerns to those previously identified by professionals and service users, particularly in relation to poor service access/responsiveness and communication difficulties with healthcare professionals. 

What are the implications for practice?: Mental health nurses should be aware of the risk of diagnostic overshadowing and ensure they are both responsive and sensitive to carers concerns about the physical health of people with SMI. It is essential for mental health nurses to actively involve carers in managing physical health, especially in formulating physical healthcare plans and providing clear practical advice/information. 

 Introduction People with severe mental illness (SMI) have high rates of physical illnesses. Informal carers are core partners in addressing these issues, however research on their views/experiences is limited and there is no systematic review published on the topic.

 Aim This integrative thematic review explored the experiences and views of carers on physical health care in SMI by synthesizing the existing qualitative research findings. 

Methods Six databases were searched from 2000 to 2021. Data were extracted and synthesised using thematic integrative analysis. The quality of included studies was assessed with the JBI Critical Appraisal Checklist. 

Results Five studies were included. Nine themes were identified conceptualising carers' perceived facilitators, barriers and roles regarding physical health care for people with SMI. 

Discussion Carers felt that receiving practical help and a specialised role for mental health nurses would facilitate better physical health care. Lack of coordination/communication and poor service access/responsiveness were common barriers, often compounded by diagnostic overshadowing. Carers are involved in promoting healthy lifestyles, monitoring physical health and supporting access to services.

 Implications for Practice Mental health nurses should ensure they are responsive to carers' concerns and proactively support them to promote the physical health of people with SMI.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
Early online dateOct 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Oct 2021

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