Living in a nursing home: a phenomenological study exploring residents’ loneliness and other feelings

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Abstract

Background

Loneliness is suggested to be one of the most prominent feelings nursing home residents are struggling with, and is related to various negative health outcomes and impaired quality of life. While there has been some research on social predictors and the impact of depression and loneliness on social relationships in nursing home residents, there has been very little qualitative research in investigating their own perception of such feelings.

Objective

To explore general feelings among nursing home residents, with a specific interest in loneliness in order to develop strategies for support and relief.

Method

This phenomenological study used an interview guide with open-ended questions to ensure focused in-depth data collection. Data were obtained through face-to-face interviews (n = 11). Interpretative phenomenological analysis was used for data analyses.

Results

Loneliness is more than being alone among others. The residents’ unfulfilled need for meaningful relationships plays a crucial role in feelings of loneliness. Losing their self-determination due to institutionalisation was strongly related to loneliness and caused strong emotions, such as grief.

Conclusion

It is vital that healthcare professionals are aware of these feelings and pay much attention to resident preferences while developing (individualised) interventions to prevent loneliness.

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