Researchers in Norway studied residents of long-term care facilities to identify the factors that are important to achieve a high quality of life.
Finding meaning in life is subjective for anyone, but for residents living in nursing homes, this can be even more challenging. Providing quality care in long-term care facilities is much more complex than simply maintaining medical health. Health care practitioners strive to provide a high quality of life to their aging patients. Quality of life, however, is multi-faceted and often difficult to define.
Between 2004 and 2005 researchers in Norway focused on how nursing home residents perceived meaning, purpose, and ultimately quality of life. Eighteen residents in a Norway nursing home were interviewed during an exploratory study. The study explored everyday life experiences of the residents and aimed to contribute to the promotion of holistic quality of life regimes. The results were recently published in the journal BMC Geriatrics.
Four areas emerged during the individual interviews, which were found to promote meaning and purpose in life:
1) Physical and mental well-being
2) Belonging and recognition
3) Personally treasured activities and
4) Spiritual closeness and connectedness
These key areas were essential in understanding the intrapersonal needs of residents were when searching for avenues to maintain meaning, purpose, and quality of life for them.
The study focused heavily on the nurse-patient interaction. As the frontline care that residents experience, nurses are their primary source for nurturing hope, meaning, and quality of life that transcends to the way residents perceive their quality of life. Based on the qualitative data collected, these interactions have the potential to facilitate positive emotions and moods among residents, while maintaining respect for their autonomy and self- determination remains a central principle and is directly related to the quality of life and sense of value.
Physical and Mental Well-Being
The experience of physical and mental well-being was related to the residents’ sense of meaning and purpose in everyday life. Some examples are the maintenance of personal hygiene, having one’s preferences and personal needs met and nurturing hope for regaining health. The nurse-patient interaction revealed significant influence on residents and their mental well-being, including their perception of hope, meaning in life, and self-transcendence. The amount of nurturing that a resident requires is correlated to their degree of dependence on care workers. Promoting the hope for positive health outcomes, and regaining health is a need that residents require for their mental well-being.
Belongingness and Recognition
The experience of belongingness and recognition was equally as important. Many residents stressed the importance of connectedness to the nursing personnel as they are the closest, and indeed sometimes only, point of human contact they may have. Those residents with a higher degree of dependence may even base their sense of self-worth on their interpretation of the care they receive, directly impacting their mental well-being. Residents reported feeling much more secure and experienced a sense of belonging when discussing the common communion and fellowship with care workers and other residents. This provided a sense of belonging and security which is linked to meaning- promotion, and quality of life.
Personally Treasured Activities
The researchers uncovered a theme of personally treasured activities as important markers of quality of life. Simplistic, mundane daily activities such as spending time outdoors, or socializing with other residents was a great joy that many residents reported in their interviews as an invaluable in their lives now, as it can become very lonely. Generating valuable aloneness, which was a mechanism for maintaining the quality of life even when alone, was another way to promote meaningful experiences in their lives. By understanding how to do things to help pass the time such as listening to music or writing becomes a treasured activity for many as they can accomplish this independently, providing an additional sense of autonomy.
Spiritual Connectedness and Closeness
The experience of spiritual connectedness and closeness for many residents provided a valuable sense of strength and security. Through maintaining a sense of spiritual balance with their god, residents reported a spiritual strength that transcended into purpose in their lives, providing them with a balance, and sense of hope for the future.
The path nursing home residents take to reach this point of their lives is a difficult undertaking, filled with disappointment, ongoing health concerns, and losses. Maintaining the quality of life for these residents is challenging but crucial for their mental and overall well-being. Promoting hope, positivity, and meaning in their lives is a continuous process that nurses play a critical role in and should continue to receive adequate support and training for.
Written by Tina Dias, BHS
Reference: Drageset, Jorunn, Gørill Haugan, and Oscar Tranvåg. “Crucial aspects promoting meaning and purpose in life: perceptions of nursing home residents.” BMC geriatrics 17.1 (2017): 254.