Declining body, institutional life, and making home-are they at odds? The lived experiences of moving through staged care in long-term care settings

This study examines elderly residential life in long-term care settings, focusing on the ways residents interact with their physical and social environments. It further proposes that the residential environment is an important player for everyday ethics in long-term care settings, and is also an important factor in enhancing the quality of life for residents. By employing the theories of place identity and environmental meanings and listening to the voices of the elderly collected through an ethnographic field study in elderly homes of life care, the study reveals the residents’ experiences of going through declining health and moving through the stages of care. Two major themes were identified. The first theme of liminal life portrays the elders’ fears as they move through the stages of care. This theme includes four sub-themes: (1) the loss of home and the loss of autonomy; (2) impending loss and its constant reminders; (3) the social classification of “us” and “them”; (4) the irreversibility of moving. The second theme of relational life describes the keys to successful transitions as experienced and told by the residents. The second theme includes three sub-themes: (1) shifting identity and the acceptance of old age; (2) human interdependence and building trust; (3) an accompanied death. Study implications are further discussed, including specific suggestions for social programs and revisions to the physical environments. A more fundamental question about place-based staged care is also raised so as to serve as a point of departure for reflections and discussions amongst health professionals, planners and designers, and other decision-makers.

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