Establishing routines to cope with the loneliness associated with widowhood: a narrative analysis

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Accessible SummaryWhat is known on the subject?Loneliness in older adults has been identified as an important public health issue in many countries.Widowhood is a time when many older people experience loneliness.What this paper adds to existing knowledge?Little is known about strategies that are effective in mitigating experiences of loneliness and this paper explores this with older people who have been through the process.The narratives of the older people in this study described a trajectory in which loneliness was experienced as both a loss of spouse and a loss of routines that enabled them to maintain connections with others.This trajectory moved onto the establishment of new routines that enabled connections to be developed.What are the implications for practice?Loneliness is strongly associated with depression and anxiety in the elderly and mental health nurses should be encouraged to screen for loneliness when undertaking assessments.Interventions that facilitate the development of meaningful routines could be integrated into mental health nursing care of older people.Background:Loneliness in older people is a public health concern in many Western countries. While not necessarily a symptom of mental disorder, it is often associated with depression and anxiety. Widowhood is a transition period during which many older people experience acute loneliness but over time develops strategies to manage it. Little is known about effective strategies that older people have used to manage the experience. The strategies older people used to manage this was the focus of this paper.Aim:The aim was to examine older widows’ experiences of loneliness.Design:The design of this study was a qualitative narrative analysis with thematic analysis and the participants were 40 older widow/widowers aged between 70 and 97 years.Findings:The study found that the participants negotiated the experience of loneliness following widowhood from an acute phase of experiencing an absence and the associated loss of routine connection to the establishment of new routines that provided new connections and a new sense of identity as an individual rather than a couple.Conclusions:It is important for mental health nurses to screen for loneliness and be able to facilitate interventions that may alleviate the experience of loneliness.

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