School of Nursing and Midwifery / School of Medical and Health Sciences
Edith Cowan University / Perth Children's Hospital Foundation / Joanna Cocozza's Foundation
Background: Children with long-term conditions are vulnerable due to the treatments required for their conditions. Since the start of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Western Australians experienced restrictions that changed daily life activities but were able to return to some of their previous routines due to the restrictions. Aim: The study explored the stress experiences of parents caring for children with long-term conditions during COVID-19 in Western Australia. Design and Participants: The study was codesigned with a parent representative caring for children with long-term conditions to ensure essential questions were targeted. Twelve parents of children with various long-term conditions were recruited. Ten parents completed the qualitative proforma, and two parents were interviewed in November 2020. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were anonymised and analysed using reflexive thematic analysis. Findings: Two themes were produced: (1) ‘Keep my child safe’ describes the children's vulnerabilities due to their long-term conditions, the adjustments parents' made to keep their children safe and the various consequences faced. (2) ‘COVID-19's silver lining’ covers the positives of the COVID-19 pandemic, including their children having fewer infections, the availability of telehealth appointments, relationship improvements and the parent's hopes for a new normal where behaviours prevent transmission of infectious (e.g., hand sanitising). Conclusion: Western Australia provided a unique context for the COVID-19 pandemic due to no transmission of the virus severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 at the time of the study. The tend and befriend theory aids in explaining the parents' stress experiences, and the application highlights a unique aspect of this theory. Parents tended to their children during COVID-19, but many could no longer rely on others for connection, support and respite, and became further isolated in attempting to protect their children due to COVID-19 consequences. The findings highlight that some parents of children with long-term conditions need specific attention during times of pandemics. Further review is recommended to support parents through the impact of COVID-19 and similar crises. Patient or Public Contribution: This study was codesigned with an experienced parent representative who was part of the research team and involved throughout the research process to ensure meaningful end-user engagement and ensure essential questions and priorities were addressed.
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