Scand J Caring Sci; 2009; 23; 353–360
Elderly people's perceptions of how they want to be cared for: an interview study with healthy elderly couples in Northern Sweden
Many countries encounter a demographic change where the number of elderly people will increase. As a result, the number of very old people needing care, services and medical assistance will increase. Care in the private home is often described as providing the best alternative for many elderly people. The aim of this study was to describe elderly people's perceptions of how they wanted to be cared for, from a perspective of becoming in need of assistance with personal care, in the future. Twelve couples of healthy elderly people living in a couple hood participated in an interview study. They were all 70 years and older and received no kind of professional care or social support. Open individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with the support of written vignettes. The vignettes were formed as scenarios that described three levels of caring needs where the elderly people would become ill. A qualitative content analysis was used to analyse the interviews. The findings were interpreted in one main theme: maintaining the self and being cared for with dignity to the end. The theme was built from three categories: at home as long as possible, professional care at nursing home when advanced care is needed and fear of being abandoned. The categories reflect the perception that when minimum help was needed, care and support by the partner and nursing staff were preferred. As the scenarios changed to being totally dependent on care, they preferred care in a nursing home. There was a pervading concern of the risk of not being seen as an individual person and becoming a nobody with no meaningful relations. Thus, there must be a singular goal to support old people, in all stages of their lives, through the recognition and affirmation of self, and providing care with dignity to the end.