Swedish Parents of Children with Down Syndrome A study on the initial information and support, and the subsequent daily life
Abstract: In this study 165 Swedish parents of young children with Downs’s syndrome (DS) were investigated regarding their perception of the quality of the first information and support received after the birth of the child. The parents’ opinions were compared with clinical routines at the paediatric clinics regarding these issues. Strong clinical ambitions fell short, however, since 70 % of the parents felt insufficiently informed; 56 % felt unsupported, and the timing of the disclosure varied between 0 hour to >5 days. On the basis of a grounded theory analysis the parents’ written narratives regarding the quality of the first information and support were analysed to better understand the reasons underlying the parental dissatisfaction. Criticisms were raised by the parents concerning: the low communication skills by professionals; the lack of privacy; too much negative information; and an unmet desire to early meet other DS parents. The implications of being DS parents regarding their daily life were examined by measuring parental health, stress, sense of coherence, employment and sick leave rates. Results were compared with those in a randomly selected group of parents of healthy age-matched children. The similarities between the DS and control parents were more pronounced than the differences regarding divorce rates, siblings in the family, time spent on child care, employment and sick leave rates, and their self-perceived health, stress, and sense of coherence. However, self-perceived health of the DS mothers was impaired and stress was increased. A small group of DS parents (5 mothers and 1 father) had an extremely high rate of sick leave and no such group was seen in the control parents. In addition, the DS mothers stayed at home because of the child’s sickness most frequently and the DS fathers stayed at home for this reason more than control mothers.Conclusions: Existing guidelines for optimal first information and support of new parents of children with DS are not always followed in Sweden. Qualitative clinical improvements from the parents’ perspective are proposed. Most DS parents live an ordinary family life in respect to the measured parameters, but the risk for health deterioration, particularly in DS mothers, might need attention.
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