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Livets sista boning: Anhörigskap, åldrande och död på sjukhem
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
2004 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis is based on an empirical study carried out as a case study at a nursing home ward in the region of Stockholm. The aim of this study is to describe and analyse the conditions of ageing and dying for the old persons living in a nursing home, as well as for their relatives. Different methods were used: participant observations, informal conversations with the elderly residents, with the staff and with visiting relatives. Furthermore, twenty-one (in-depth) interviews with eighteen relatives were also conducted.

From the results it became clear that the two major features embedded in the overall experience of the nursing home setting were: a sense of waiting and the presence of dying and death. For the residents a major part of daily life was marked by their dependency on others and on their bodily decline. It is argued that the institutional features contribute to reinforcing the images/pictures of bodily decline. As such, the nursing home also had a significant impact on the experiences of the relatives. The compact environment of frailty and death could arouse feelings of anxiety and worries among the relatives about their own ageing and death.

Analyses of the data based on the interviews with relatives indicated a number of central patterns: accompanying each other, understanding the old person’s health and needs, recreating roles, sharing the care and preparing for dying and death. These also form the theoretical structure of the thesis. A finding of the study was that the relationship between the old person and the relative underwent important changes. Not only the placement in itself but also the poor health of the old person contributed to this change. As a consequence new roles emerged within the relationship, as well as with the staff. Many relatives continued to visit and also contributed to the care even though this care work could vary and mostly was quite limited in both content and extent. One group among the relatives not only visited, but they truly shared the old person’s daily life. It was found that relatives, irrespective of the caring role, try to guard and maintain the identity and dignity of the old person.

Based on an analysis of the different themes/processes found in the data, four core categories emerged: time, space, body and dignity. They all constitute the existential condition that affects the lives of the old persons and their relatives in an institutional setting. They also embrace the complexity and contradictions that characterise the data. Therefore, in the concluding chapter, the spatial and temporal contradictions of the nursing home are discussed. Another issue concerned the bodily themes found in the data and how these illuminate the diverse meanings and the, sometimes, contradictory images of the body. These themes led to the conclusion that it is not death, but the bodily disintegration and unboundedness that the old persons and their relatives fear most. Finally, it is argued that the “light care work” carried out by the relatives is so much more than sporadic visits. Instead, these visits can be seen as 1) rituals contributing to a sense of continuity and coherence, 2) representations of the relationships and 3) a way in which relatives can maintain and guard the old person’s identity and dignity.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Institutionen för socialt arbete - Socialhögskolan , 2004. , 238 p.
Rapport i socialt arbete, ISSN 0281-6288 ; 108
Keyword [en]
family, relative, care, elderly, dying, nursing homes
National Category
Social Work
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-55ISBN: 91-7265-804-5OAI: diva2:195353
Public defence
2004-03-19, Aula Svea, Socialhögskolan, Sveaplan, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Available from: 2004-02-26 Created: 2004-02-26 Last updated: 2009-03-16Bibliographically approved

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