The Parental Experience of Caring for A Child with Pain and Irritability of Unknown Origin


The Parental Experience of Caring for A Child with Pain and Irritability of Unknown Origin


Rizakos S; Parmar A; Siden H; Orkin J


Journal of Pain and Symptom Management




pediatrics; pain; severe neurological impairment; irritability; qualitative inquiry


Background and Objective : Approximately 73% of children with severe neurological impairment (SNI) can experience episodes of pain and irritability often of unknown origin (PIUO). Limited research exists on how these experiences of PIUO may affect parental caregivers and families. The primary objective of this study was to understand the parental caregiver experience of caring for a child with SNI who experiences persistent PIUO. Methods : We conducted a qualitative study using semi-structured interviews to explore the experience of parental caregivers of children with SNI. Interview guide questions focused on exploring pain behaviours, the diagnostic process, pharmacological and non-pharmacological management, healthcare-team support, discussion surrounding irritability, and family impact. Interviews were conducted until thematic saturation was reached. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and coded and analyzed by two independent reviewers using thematic analysis. Results : Fifteen parental caregivers were interviewed, with 93% being mothers and 33% being a visible minority. Interviews revealed three major themes: 1) Variations in Clinical Care for PIUO; 2) The Experience and Challenges of Living with PIUO); 3) Managing the Impact of PIUO on Parental Well Being. Interviews demonstrated that parent and child can be viewed as a dyad, in which the child's experience is inherently linked to the parental experience. Conclusion : Parental caregivers described caring for a child with persistent PIUO as physically and emotionally exhausting, and negatively impacting family quality of life. Interviews highlighted avenues of future exploration for clinical care, including both enhanced management pathways for children and supportive resources for education and coping for parents.


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Special Edition #1 2022 List


Rizakos S; Parmar A; Siden H; Orkin J, “The Parental Experience of Caring for A Child with Pain and Irritability of Unknown Origin,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed June 25, 2022,

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