Unfamiliarity and Perplexity of caregiver families’ experiences in living with chronically ill family members in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

A Qualitative Study


  • Kaleab Fikre Addis Ababa University Author




Caregiving families, chronically ill, chronic illness, perplexity, unfamiliarity


Background: The most pressing health and social issue confronting contemporary families have been chronic illness. Families are usually the ones who take the caregiver roles for their chronically ill members. Thereby, they usually endure and encounter perplexity owing to unfamiliarity with the illness, its symptoms, and treatments. This study aimed at revealing the perplexity that caregiver families usually experience owing to their unfamiliarity with chronic illness when living with and caring for chronically ill family members.

Methods: The study was conducted from September 2019 to January 2020. It used a phenomenological study approach to collect and analyze qualitative data collected through twenty semi-structured interviews over a period of five months. Participants were recruited from Black Lion Specialized Referral Hospital (TASH), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Results: The study identified a lack of knowledge about or unfamiliarity with chronic illness, its symptoms, and treatments as the challenge that caregiver families of the chronically ill often face. A lack of knowledge has affected the caregiver families in three main ways: 1) increased risk of developing chaotic emotions and behavior; 2) difficulty to understand and provide the best care that the chronically ill requires; and 3) causes of strains in family interactions, usually between chronically ill and caregiver families. According to the study’s findings, unfamiliarity with chronic illness and its treatments had a significant impact on overall family stability, everyday social relations, and functioning.

Conclusions: Families often assume caregiver roles for chronically ill members. Even though unfamiliarity with chronic illness and its treatments have a debilitating effect on overall family stability and functioning, Ethiopian public health policy has paid less attention to it. This study gives emphasis on the importance of raising public awareness about the growing impact of chronic illness. Therefore, it recommends that, first, attention be paid to including the growing problem of chronic illness in the public policy agenda; and, second, efforts be made to improve public knowledge about the growing impacts of chronic illness, enabling both the chronically ill and the caregiver to mitigate illness-born perplexities.


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Author Biography

  • Kaleab Fikre, Addis Ababa University

    Addis Ababa University, College of Social Sciences


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Original Article

How to Cite

Fikre, K. (2023) “Unfamiliarity and Perplexity of caregiver families’ experiences in living with chronically ill family members in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: A Qualitative Study”, Ethiopian Journal of Public Health and Nutrition (EJPHN), 6(1), pp. 21–28. doi:10.20372/ejphn.v6i1.358.

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