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LaVela SL, Pedersen J, Ehrlich-Jones L, Heinemann AW. Informal caregivers' self-identified roles in facilitating health-promoting behaviours for weight management in community-dwelling care recipients living with spinal cord injury in the United States. Health & Social Care in The Community. 2022 Sep 1; 30(5):e1585-e1598.
Health providers often focus on secondary conditions and spend less time prioritising overweight/obesity care. Informal caregivers are well positioned to facilitate health-promoting behaviours of healthy eating and physical activity among community-dwelling care recipients with spinal cord injury (SCI) for prevention and management of overweight/obesity. Literature has typically focused on caregiver adjustment post-injury and burden related to their roles in secondary condition care. The novel objective of this study was to describe informal caregivers' perspectives of their roles in facilitating health-promoting weight management behaviours, healthy eating and physical activity, for care recipients with SCI. This was a qualitative study that used semi-structured interviews with informal caregivers for data collection in 2019. Braun and Clarke's established thematic phases were used for analysis. Participants included informal caregivers of individuals with SCI living in the community (n = 24). Caregivers identified eight themes to describe their role in facilitating weight management for care recipients. Themes included: (1) meal planning/shopping, (2) meal preparation/cooking, (3) using portion control, (4) serving/feeding, (5) helping the care recipient with physical activity and/or leisure activities, (6) mutually participating in weight management activities, (7) providing motivation and encouragement and (8) being an information liaison. In summary, informal caregivers have an intimate understanding of care recipients' needs and have insights on obstacles and enablers to health-promoting behaviours, making their involvement in facilitating weight management in individuals with SCI vital. Caregivers self-identified several significant roles for promoting weight management. This is especially valuable for conditions such as overweight/obesity for which prevention and treatment involve health-promoting behaviours that need consistent attention in the community setting. It is important to ensure that informal caregivers and care recipients have the information required in order to facilitate healthy eating and physical activity in persons with SCI and have opportunities for mutual dyadic participation when both partners are interested.