A discourse of silence: professional carers reasoning about death and dying in nursing homes

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Nursing homes are a setting in which death and dying is common. How death and dying is articulated and the actions that take place in a nursing home constitute a discourse that guides the staff in their work. The aim of this study was to explore the discourse of death and dying in nursing homes from the perspective and understanding of the staff. The study draws on Foucault’s discourse analysis. Data are
from five focus-group discussions held with 28 staff of four different nursing homes in Sweden. The findings show that the discourse had three characteristics : (a) dying was silent and silenced, (b) emotions were pushed into the background,
and (c) attentiveness to death arose after the moment of the elderly person’s death.
The structure of the discourse was characterised by a movement between two positions, avoiding and confronting death, themain focus being on avoidance. The articulation and practices of silence highlight a need to regard dying as a process that requires attention. One way to ensure appropriate attention could be to instil
the philosophy of palliative care in nursing homes, including training and support for the staff in their work. The study demonstrates that nursing-home staff need more knowledge and support to enable them to feel that they do a good job.


  • Jane Österlind
  • Görel Hansebo
  • Janicke Andersson
  • Britt-Marie Ternestedt
  • Ingrid Hellström
Externa organisationer
  • External Organization - Unknown

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Gerontologi, medicinsk/hälsovetenskaplig inriktning


Sidor (från-till)529-544
TidskriftAgeing and Society
StatusPublished - 2011
Peer review utfördJa
Externt publiceradJa