Emotional support for siblings of children with chronic illness.
CPS ePoster Library. Platt J. Jun 1, 2017; 176567
Dr. Jody Platt
Dr. Jody Platt
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Abstract
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Background: Siblings of sick children are not often the focus of the family's attention. Families with a sick child are commonly stressed by time, emotions and finances. Sibling mental health can be difficult for parents to appreciate (Roche et al., 2016) and many studies reveal the developmental importance of sibling relationships (Feinberg et al., 2012). An annual event was created at our tertiary care pediatric centre to celebrate and support siblings of patients with chronic complex medical issues. The primary purpose of this event was to raise awareness for sibling support and to connect families with possible community supports.

Objectives: This study had two primary objectives. First, we studied if parents of complex pediatric patients recognize emotional stress on their other children. Secondly, we inquired if these parents are accessing psychological support resources for these siblings.

Methods: The third annual sibling celebration events was held by the pediatric resident advocacy group at our tertiary care pediatric centre. Awareness of the event was created by posters distributed in the hospital and in the community. Over 20 families and 100 people total attended this event. Caregivers who attended the sibling celebration event were given the opportunity to complete a survey addressing the emotional health of siblings. The survey also collected demographics, and invited comments about the event for quality assurance.

Results: Parental surveys were administered and 20 responses were collected. All parents surveyed reported a perceived impact of chronic illness on the well sibling(s). Most caregivers reported impact was moderate or significant (85%). The majority of primary caregivers (67%) were concerned about the emotional health of the siblings. The majority (90%) of all caregivers reported not accessing resources for emotional support of the siblings. There were also comments regarding stressors and factors contributing to why sibling emotional supports were not being accessed.

Conclusion: Parents of children with chronic illness perceive that emotional stress is an significant issue for their healthy children. Despite this being a recognized need and worry, the majority of these parents are not accessing psychological supports for the siblings. Reasons for not accessing resources are multi-factorial, and should be explored further in future studies. Preliminary results suggest lack of time, limited available resources in the community and financial stresses are predominant challenges. Exploring this topic further is important for possible implementation of psychological services for families and siblings of chronically ill children in the future as a part of offered hospital services.

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