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Chronic Illness: The Concept of Hope

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Various published researches have termed chronic illnesses as the major causes of disability and death in the US. The most common type of such deadly conditions includes type 2 diabetes, obesity, arthritis, stroke, and cancer. Even though they are costly, they are preventable. For patients with the condition, hope has been found to influence their feeling of improvement positively. The more hopeful a patient is, the higher the likelihood of them feeling some improvement in their condition. Factors influencing the feelings of hope include perceptions of family support, income levels and knowledge about the illnesses. The intention of this paper is an exploration of the role of the concept of hope in patients with chronic illnesses.  Mr. C is one person who has relied on hope when his life changed as a result of chronic illness. Having the support of his family helps boost his hope To comprehend the concept well and gain a deeper insight into it, the paper analyzes an interview with Mr. C, a patient who has Parkinson's disease while comparing the concept’s use in several other articles by various authors.

Summary of Literature

Hope is more powerful in the healing process of a patient than the use of medicine. A person who is hopeful of recuperation is more likely to be healed compared to that individual who believes that his or her condition cannot be cured. Selma Kavradim, Zeynep Ozer, and Hakan Bozcuk (2012) talk about cancer, which is a leading killer disease in the world. According to the information they gathered, it leads to about 100, 000 deaths out of the new 160, 000 cases of people who contract the disease annually in Turkey alone. The pain does not just come with the loss of one’ life, but begins when the diagnosis confirms the presence of this disease; it is life altering and causes a lot of pain for the patients. The individuals have to deal with uneasiness, fear, physical, social, and emotional changes, as well as uncertainty regarding the length and quality of one’s life. The feelings of anxiety and uncertainty often results in a situation of hopelessness considering the mortality rate. The end result is usually depression. They define hope as a valuable response from human beings in adverse situations, which causes them to expect positive outcomes that are transcendent of particular difficult predicaments. It is a psychological defense mechanism that prevents despair, thus allowing human beings to re-define their situations, giving them a new meaning that ensures adaptation. The end result for such a response is a high level of well-being, which often influences a person’s ability to get through tough and life-threatening conditions. Therefore, in their article, they stress the fact that hope is a motivating factor that must be given to patients of cancer despite the tough conditions presented by the disease.

Sindia Madan and Kenneth Pakenham (2014) agree with Kavradim, Ozer, and Bozcuk on the on the notion that hope is a strong emotion that gives patients the strength to deal with tough chronic illnesses. Their study revolves around the effects of hope on patients suffering from multiple sclerosis. Like cancer, multiple sclerosis is a life-altering condition that causes both physical and psychological harm to the victim, and often results in social changes in terms of individual interaction with people. The two researchers observe that hope has been neglected as a major healing factor to this condition. The reason for the failure to recognize its relevance is the lack of understanding of its role in the creation of a psychological change that gives a patient the necessary strength to adjust to the disease gracefully. Madan and Pakenham examine the effects of hope and the stress-moderating effects on the adjustment of patients to multiple sclerosis, which is the most common neurological disease in the world, affecting almost 2.5 million individuals and their families. Their regression analyses exhibited a direct proportionality relationship between hope and adjustment to the disease’s body alterations; greater hope resulted in better adjustment and hence, the improvement of one’s quality of life.

D. Parashar (2014) conducted a research to assess the importance of hope from the perspective of a patient with spinal cord injury (SCI) and a rehabilitation psychologist. This study conducted in India proved that hope was needed for the complete recovery of an individual, the expectation of full self-reliance, as well as an optimal quality of life after the healing process. According to Parashar, hope serves as a driver of recovery, contributing significantly towards the improvement of the quality of life for the individual patient as well as that for the family and friends. For this reason, he recommends that rehabilitation counsellors and psychologists focus on encouraging the patients to have hope for minimal life alteration after recovery. However, scientific facts show that there are many factors that could determine the overall outcome of the healing process. They include age, social support, levels of anxiety, and exposure to environments with people having suffered similar conditions, which often brings the realization of permanence of the condition. These factors vary from the experience of one patient to another. Psychological counsellors are tasked with provision of hope to these individuals, who may have to alter their lifestyles and professions.

Prof. R. Hamilton and R. Thomas (2016) define hope as a coping resource that is multidimensional and a life force that strengthens the resolve of a patient to recover from whatever illness. Their research is based on the effects of lymphedema, a chronic condition that is usually associated with cancer. This article shows the life-altering effects of cancer as discussed by Kavradim, Ozer, and Bozcuk in the first article. Thomas and Hamilton, in examining the impact of hope on 13 patients with lymphedema, found out that it carried a different meaning and significance for every individual. Some viewed it as passive inaction while for others, it was action-oriented and positive. Chronic lymphedema crushes any hope for normalcy, and thus, they recommend coping as a way of adapting to the new lifestyle with the disease. They refer to it as ‘renegotiation of hope.’

In the fifth article, Par Salander, Roger Henricksson, and Mirjam Bergknut (2014) talk about the creation of hope for recovery in patients with lung cancer. This disease is characterized by psychological and biomedical symptoms alongside poor prognosis. In as much as the communication of facts and opinions by professional medical staff is important, the views and perspective of the patients is essential for recovery. They present a consenting argument that cancer is life-changing in a way that it degrades one’s quality of life. Therefore, dealing with such a situation requires patience and understanding when dealing with the patients. The creation of hope as an ingrown tool for dealing with chronic condition begins with consideration of individual views to avoid unnecessary strain, which might present hopelessness. They found out that mental maneuvers to distance oneself from the effects of the disease actually resulted in quicker remission and management or recovery.  

Concept of Hope in Light of Family Experience

Human beings live anticipating certain things or events to happen in their lives. They may be waiting for a pay rise, promotion at work, birth of a child, education, and good health among others. Such expectations of future outcomes are what constitute hope. It has a bias towards the positive and is the drive behind most human activities. Hope is an essential human strength in all aspects of life. People need it the most when faced with life-altering events that tend to change their normal way of life for the worst. Chronic illnesses are an example of such circumstances that call for promotion of hope among the affected persons. Despite its huge significance, hope is yet to receive the kind of significance that it deserves. 

            Family support increases a client’s hopes and as such bettering their experiences with chronic illnesses. Mr. C’s family provided him with the strength he needed as the condition he was suffering from altered various aspects of his life. Family for him was not merely about his wife and children but also the nurses and other members at the long-term nursing care home. His wife also had a chronic illness as she suffered from long-term irritable bowel syndrome. With time Mr. C was unable to perform certain simple functions such as putting on his shirt. Given his wife’s condition, she was also not in a good position to help him out much. Being unable to handle such would have disillusioned him further complicating his already worse state. However, the care center helped him with such tasks. When such tasks are handled, the patient gains a better feeling about their quality of life and a more positive outlook on things. 

            Mr. C and his wife Mrs. W both seem to acknowledge the role of hope in their wellbeing given the chronic illnesses that afflict them. They chose to move to the care center believing that their stay there will enable them access better care. For them, accessing relevant care means chances of better times with their chronic conditions despite lack of a definite cure. Before the onset of the Parkinson's disease, Mr. C was quite independent in many aspects of his life. The illness incapacitated him making him become dependent on other family members. The other members of the family note the changes and are take up more roles that he would have had to play. The children grow up to become independent while Mr. C becomes dependent. Having people around him that he can rely on to handle normal functions places him in a good position, according to him a reason to look up to the day that follows.

            Nurses at the care center acknowledge the role of hope in Mr. C’s attitude towards life. They work to ensure they keep his hopes alive for a better experience with the condition.  This enables him to have daily access to his wife while allowing his children to visit him once in a while. The study that Kavradim, Özer and Bozcuk (2013), explored in their article “Hope in people with cancer: a multivariate analysis from Turkey,” identified family support as having a direct role in the level of hope that people with chronic illnesses had in their life. The nurses implemented practices that maintained hope in Mr. C.

            A patient's priorities also have a huge stake in their feelings of hope as Salander, Bergknut and Henriksson (2014) note in their study. The nurses at the care center are cognizant of this fact and as such make it possible for him to fulfill some of his plans that include meeting his family, and performing outdoor activities such as camping and traveling. They avoid complete control over his choices giving him the opportunity to enjoy significant autonomy levels. The interview brings out Mr. C as someone who is frightened by the thought of death. He is determined to continue fighting to stay alive. He participates in social activities, reads the Bible with his wife, and even makes time to meet his wife twice a day. Such activities seem like an attempt at a normal life. Even though they are not much in the view of someone leading a normal life, they enable him to have a better feeling about himself. Parashar (2015) notes in his study that such engagements give one a sense of meaning in their life, a reason to feel better about their life.

            The concept of hope enabled me to get a deeper insight into Mr. C. His willingness to take steps aimed at improving his experienced pointed to the faith he had in the potential of a better life for him given his health condition. He refuses to let the disease break him down and make him despise the fact that he was still alive. He found some use in in his life. He still enjoys the company of his wife and other persons at the care center. He challenges my attitude towards life sparking in me the resolve for to keep my hope alive irrespective of the challenges that I may face in my life. Hope ensures that I do not lose sight of my goals in light of life-altering events.


            Clearly, hope is the key to good feelings among persons with chronic illnesses. The five articles on hope in the face of their respective chronic illnesses is a pointer to the role that the concept plays in one's life. The authors opine that without hope, patients suffering from chronic illnesses have a hard time adjusting to the changes occasioned by their condition. Their feelings regarding the future are poor. Hope helps them take part in activities that better their chances of survival and as such serving to boost their lifespans. The interview with Mr. C helps reinforce the need for hope among patients with chronic illnesses. He takes steps to better his experience with Parkinson’s disease. His experience with the concept of hope enables me to gain a deeper understanding of its impact and motivates me to keep my hopes alive even in the face of life-threatening conditions. Stakeholders in the healthcare sector need to promote programs that improve patients’ handling of chronic illnesses.

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