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Defining roles, relationships, boundaries and participation between elderly people and nurses within the home: an ethnographic study

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Recently there has been a marked shift in the location of nursing care in the UK from the hospital setting to the community and more particularly the home, with elderly people identified as key recipients of care in this setting. A number of commentators have highlighted the particular situation of elderly people with regard to care provision, illuminating the often disempowering nature of care interactions between nurses and elderly people. However, although there is clear evidence from a number of settings that care for elderly people has been less than optimal, to date there is little comparable evidence available regarding elderly people's experiences of nursing care within the home environment. Utilising an ethnographic approach, incorporating participant observation and semistructured interviews with nurses and elderly people (aged 65¬†years and over), the aim of this study was to explore the nature of the care relationship within the home setting. Thirteen elderly people who were receiving nursing care within the home and 16 community nurses within one Primary Care Trust in the UK took part in the study and data were collected over a period of 1¬†year. Three themes emerged from the data: the location of care; the nature of nurse–patient relationships; and the meaning of health and illness. These offer an account of the ways in which roles and relationships are constructed, negotiated and experienced by nurses and elderly people in the home, illuminating the centrality of relationships between nurses and elderly people in defining the experiences and perceptions of both groups of the quality of care overall. As the location of care continues to move closer to home, it is crucial that the implicit qualities that are valued within nurse–patient relationships in this context are recognised and made more explicit at both the organisational and policy level.
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Keywords: community nursing; district nursing; elderly people; ethnography; nursing care of elderly people

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2009

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