International Psychogeriatrics

Research Article

Narratives in a users' and carers' group: meanings and impact

Susan M. Benbowa1 c1, Yong Lock Onga2, Sarah Blacka3 and Jane Garnera4

a1 Centre for Ageing and Mental Health, University of Staffordshire, and Old Age Psychiatry, Wolverhampton City Primary Care Trust, U.K.

a2 Psychiatry of Old Age, Goodmayes Hospital, North East London Foundation Trust, London, U.K.

a3 Psychiatry of Old Age, Wonford House Hospital, Devon Partnership NHS Trust, Exeter, U.K.

a4 Psychiatry of Old Age, Barnet, Enfield and Haringey NHS Mental Health Trust, London, U.K.


Background: Carers who wished to share their experiences with a national working group (the Consumer Group) prepared narratives as a way of identifying areas for discussion.

Methods: The narratives were submitted to one author and subjected to thematic qualitative analysis. The themes were fed back to the Group for discussion.

Results: Five main themes were identified: difficulties in obtaining a diagnosis; acting as an advocate; stresses of caring; practical problems with social care; and emotions experienced by carers.

Conclusions: The narratives provided a means of sharing carers' experiences and creating initiatives for further action by the Group. They have an impact on the people who hear or read them but may also be therapeutic for those who produce them. Narratives can also be a powerful tool in teaching and training, and in identifying areas for service and professional improvement.

(Received April 15 2008)

(Revised June 04 2008)

(Revised July 17 2008)

(Accepted July 17 2008)

(Online publication October 17 2008)


c1 Correspondence should be addressed to: Professor Susan M Benbow, Centre for Ageing & Mental Health, Faculty of Health & Sciences, Staffordshire University, Blackheath Lane, Stafford ST18 0AD, U.K. Phone: +44 (0)1902 575151; Fax: +44 (0)1902 444127. Email: