Choice, privacy and a sense of identity are just some of the things that older people living in residential care need to maintain a good quality of life, according to research in the May issue of the Journal of Advanced Nursing.
Researchers from the National University of Ireland (NUI), Galway, spoke to 101 older people living in 12 long-stay care homes, including small and large facilities, well-established and recently built homes and those provided by the public, private and voluntary sectors. They found that four key themes had an impact on the subjects' quality of life: the ethos of care provided by the home, the residents' sense of self and identity, how connected they felt and the activities and therapies they got involved in.
"It was clear from our research that practitioners and policy makers need to take all these factors into account if they are to provide older people with the sort of residential care that enhances their quality of life," says lead author Dr Adeline Cooney, from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at the University.
"We also found that residents tended to be happier if they had been involved in the decision to move into residential care, as they were more likely to make the best of it, getting involved in activities and making friends. People who were not involved in the decision tended to withdraw into themselves and were more likely to be lonely, unhappy and keen to return home."
Two-thirds of the residents who took part in the study were male. All were 65 or over and the majority of residents (45 per cent) fell into the 75-84 age group and had been in residential care for two to four years (37 per cent).
Key findings include:
"This study highlights the importance of providing a holistic, person-centred approach that goes beyond satisfying the technical and procedural aspects of care," concludes Dr Cooney. "Care staff should regard the quality of life of residents as an integral part of their role and residents and their families should have significant input into how services are structured and delivered. Although this study was carried out in Ireland, the basic principles of how the quality of life of older people in residential care can be enhanced are universal."
The study, which was funded by the National Council for Ageing and Older People, was led by Professor Kathy Murphy from the School of Nursing and Midwifery and Professor Eamon O'Shea from the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology, both at NUI Galway.
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