The meaning of dignity in nursing home care as seen by relatives

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Background:As part of an ongoing Scandinavian project on the dignity of care for older people, this study is based on ‘clinical caring science’ as a scientific discipline. Clinical caring science examines how ground concepts, axioms and theories are expressed in different clinical contexts. Central notions are caring culture, dignity, at-home-ness, the little extra, non-caring cultures versus caring cultures and ethical context - and climate.Aim and assumptions:This study investigates the individual variations of caring cultures in relation to dignity and how it is expressed in caring acts and ethical contexts. Three assumptions are formulated:(1) the caring culture of nursing homes influences whether dignified care is provided, (2) an ethos that is reflected on and appropriated by the caregiver mirrors itself in ethical caring acts and as artful caring in an ethical context and (3) caring culture is assumed to be a more ontological or universal concept than, for example, an ethical context or ethical person-to-person acts.Research design:The methodological approach is hermeneutic. The data consist of 28 interviews with relatives of older persons from Norway, Denmark and Sweden.Ethical considerations:The principles of voluntariness, confidentiality and anonymity were respected during the whole research process.Findings:Three patterns were revealed: dignity as at-home-ness, dignity as the little extra and nondignifying ethical context.Discussion:Caring communion, invitation, at-home-ness and ‘the little extra’ are expressions of ethical contexts and caring acts in a caring culture. A non-caring culture may not consider the dignity of its residents and may be represented by routinized care that values organizational efficiency and instrumentalism rather than an individual's dignity and self-worth.Conclusion:An ethos must be integrated in both the organization and in the individual caregiver in order to be expressed in caring acts and in an ethical context that supports these caring acts.

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