Date of Conferral





Human Services


Randy Heinrich


With deinstitutionalization in the 1970s, individuals with intellectual disabilities were

mainstreamed back into their communities, along with an increase in the prevalence of

alcohol abuse and a necessity for family members to be the main source of care, support,

and advocacy. The purpose of this hermeneutical phenomenological study was to explore

the lived experiences of caregivers of family members with intellectual disabilities

abusing alcohol and the obtainment of substance abuse treatment services. The

conceptual framework included a combination of family stress and caring theories which

provided an ontological direction as to how caregivers perceived the phenomenon of

obtaining substance abuse treatment services for their family member. Data were

collected through face-to-face structured interviews with 8 caregivers who were selected

using purposive sampling. A modified version of van Kaam's method of analysis assisted

in the aggregation of themes and to explore caregivers' lived experiences of seeking

substance abuse treatment services. Results included the cyclic categories of (a) stress,

(b) worry, (c) hopelessness and helplessness, (d) anger, and (e) self-blame, as

experienced by the caregivers. Implications for policy and social change include

information for stakeholders, policymakers, and human service facilitators regarding

caregivers' perceptions of seeking substance abuse treatment services for family

members with intellectual disabilities who are abusing alcohol and for subsequent

support programming development and management

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