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Views on disclosing mistreatment: A focus group study of differences between people with MS and their caregivers


Both female and male persons with MS are at increased risk for various forms of physical, sexual, and disability-specific abuse. An ongoing study revealed a subset of respondents in which the caregiver acknowledged mistreatment of the person with MS, but that person either denied or minimized mistreatment Methods: In an effort to understand this phenomenon, we conducted 4 focus groups of male caregivers, female caregivers, male persons with MS, and female persons with MS (total n=15). Data were analyzed using qualitative methodology Results: Results included the surprising finding that, despite participants having been identified as recipients or perpetrators of mistreatment, all denied any form of abuse in the focus group setting. We concluded that attitudes toward mistreatment in these discrepant couples varied based on gender. Specifically, male caregivers may disclose abuse as a cry for help, whereas female caregivers may feel such behavior is justified because of the perceived provocations of the person with MS. Women with MS appeared reluctant to acknowledge abuse because they feared loss of their primary relationship; while men with MS calculated that putting up with a certain amount of mistreatment was worthwhile Conclusion: More attention should be paid in identifying and understanding this subset of persons with MS and their informal caregivers. © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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