A Heideggerian hermeneutic study : the lived experiences of the Chinese family caregivers of relatives with severe and persistent mental illness in Malaysia
An increasing number of families are being invariably forced to take on the role of a caregiver to their relative with severe and persistent mental illness following the development of community psychiatry and a movement to deinstitutionalize mental health care, both in the developed and developing countries. The lived experiences of these family caregivers have attracted the attentions of a remarkable number of researchers in nursing, and other health and social care disciplines. However, a review of the literature has uncovered that the findings of their research studies generally are far from conclusive due to a variety of serious epistemological and methodological flaws. Furthermore, a large number of these studies are situated in the quantitative paradigm, and therefore are heavily influenced by scientism, which strongly advocates quantification, and the use of mathematics for the exploration of the phenomenon under study. The quantitative paradigm is antithesis to the study of the lived experiences of the family caregivers. The contention is that human experiences cannot be studied holistically and meaningfully with the detached observer approach that could only yield answers that are expressed in numbers and percentages rather than capturing the thick and rich human experiences in a vivid and poignant manner. Lastly, a large majority of these research studies are conducted in the western cultures, and therefore may not be applicable to the family caregivers in oriental cultures. Therefore, this Heideggerian hermeneutic study is undertaken with the aim of describing and constructing a possible interpretation of the day-to-day lived experiences of the Chinese family caregivers of relatives with severe and persistent mental illness in Malaysia. The seminal work of Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), Being and Time, Division I, underpin the philosophical framework of this study. Shared conversations, which center on the day-to-day lived experiences of the 19 Chinese family caregivers of relatives with severe and persistent mental illness in Malaysia that meet the study criteria were conducted. Eight major themes that reflect the meaning of the day-to-day lived experiences of the Chinese family caregivers emerged from the collected study data, which were thematically analyzed. The major themes include: Being thrown into the trajectories of family caregiving; Answering to the call of conscience; Managing the day-to-day care; Enduring the caregiving process; Surviving the caregiving process; Chronic sorrow and grief; Constant worries and fears; and Making sense of the caregiving experiences. The emergent themes were individually described and discussed in great depth from the Heideggerian perspective. The study highlights a number of critical issues and the thesis discusses these in depth.