Living in a nursing home: Residents' perceptions and coping with their lives

Jolanda M. Kaddar (2000)

Living in a nursing home is perceived by our society as one of the most undesirable ways to spend the last days of life. This study examines the perceptions of nursing home residents, one of the most marginalized and unheard groups in society, about their lives in a nursing home. It also explores what resources they draw upon to cope with their experience. In the introduction, observations of nursing home residents' lives, which were the impetus for this research, are briefly presented. The perspectives and values of narrative gerontology and a constructionist approach to aging, which guide this research, are introduced. The literature review explores major themes of life in a nursing home relevant to this study. The review includes a depiction of the nursing home milieu with an emphasis on the changes and losses inherent in life in a nursing home and a review of theoretical concepts which suggest explanations of ways of coping with the losses and changes of living in a nursing home. The methodology and means of collecting and analyzing the data of this research are presented within a framework of a qualitative phenomenological study. Analysis of the results indicates that the majority of the residents in this study perceive their life in the nursing home as satisfactory. All of them describe initial difficulties in the process of adjustment. They identify the sources of their strengths as originating mainly in themselves and in relationships with their families. Suggestions for further research are outlined.