Nursing home stigma ‘makes it hard to provide homely care’

Providing “homely care” within the nursing home sector is made more difficult by unfair ageism and stigma, a report reveals.

The two-year study found nursing home residents felt safe and secure, and valued the regular contact with other people.

The study, commissioned by Nursing Home Ireland, looked at what constituted “home” from the perspective of a nursing home resident.

It highlights the need for stronger co-operation between health and support workers, families and wider society to improve the experience of people moving to a nursing home.

Staff from Ulster University looked at how nursing home staff and healthcare providers provided a homely experience for nursing home residents.

Report co-author, Prof Assumpta Ryan, said the report showed that nursing homes could present a “very positive life choice” for many older people.

“The challenge is not to try and replace a person’s interpretation of home but to focus upon ensuring the nursing home is perceived as their new home,” Prof Ryan said.

However, providing homely care in a nursing home setting is compounded by the unfair ageism and stigma that exists around nursing home care.

Prof Ryan said there was a need for a greater understanding of the quality of life experienced by nursing home residents.

The report found residents wanted to be involved in decisions about their long-term care arrangements and particularly valued the safety and security of the nursing home environment, where they had regular contact with other people.

Others took a more philosophical perspective of their current life trajectory, demonstrating a capacity for adaptation and change.

“The residents portrayed a picture that emphasised that they were making the most of their later life, embracing their new relationships, both with staff and residents, and feeling a sense of belonging in their new nursing home community.”

The study, The Lived Experience of Nursing home Residents in the Context of the Nursing Home as their Home, was based on interviews with 48 residents and 44 staff members.

While staff appreciated the need for regulations and standards, they felt there was too much focus on clinical and medical matters and that detracted from the homely experience.

Around 28,000 people reside in nursing homes in Ireland. The average age of residents is 83 and more than half are aged over 85.

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