Older persons’ thoughts about death and dying and their experiences of care in end-of-life: a qualitative study

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Abstract

Background
Few studies have focused on how older persons living in nursing homes perceive their last period of life. Furthermore, previous research on older persons’ perceptions of death and dying is limited. Hence, there is an urgent need to explore their experiences during their final period in life.
Aim
To explore thoughts about death and dying and experiences of care in end-of-life among older persons living in nursing homes.
Methods
This study employed a qualitative approach including individual interviews with 36 older persons living in Swedish nursing homes. Questions related to quality of life; physical health; thoughts about death, dying, and the future; and experiences related to the living condition and environment were asked. The interview transcripts were analysed through content analysis. The study was approved by the Regional Ethics Review Board (reference number: 2015/4).
Results
The analysis resulted in the identification of three main thematic categories: The unavoidable and unknown end of life, Thoughts on control and Living your last period of life at a nursing home. The older persons did not fear death itself but had some worries about dying. Spending the last stage of life at a nursing home contributed to different thoughts and feelings among the older persons. With a few exceptions, older persons characterized life at the nursing home as boring and felt they were surrounded by people who did not belong there.
Conclusions
This study indicates a need for older persons to talk about death, dying and end-life issues. Furthermore, this study highlighted that the co-residence of cognitively healthy persons and persons with dementia in the same ward adversely affected cognitively healthy persons. This situation resulted in there being not enough time to both handle the care needs of persons with dementia and have the conversations that cognitively healthy persons desired, such as conversations about thoughts about existence, that could have improved their quality of life.

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Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Nursing
Original languageEnglish
Article number123
Pages (from-to)1-10
JournalNursing Open
Volume19
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Dec 16
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes