Aim. The paper gives a theoretical account of experiences of assisted personal body care (APBC) in hospitalized patients with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Background. Body care has been identified as a central but underestimated area of nursing. Hospitalized patients with severe COPD suffer from breathlessness on exertion and are dependent on help with personal body care. Studies have described patient strategies for managing breathlessness and preferences regarding nursing care during hospitalization. Yet the problems that patients can experience because of their inability to manage personal body care by themselves have not previously been explored. This study explored patients’ experiences of being assisted with personal body care.
Methods. A grounded theory methodology was used with a convenience sample of 12 patients. Data were gathered from participant observation of sessions of APBC, in-depth interviews after the observed sessions and measurement of breathlessness perceived by patients before and after the sessions.
Findings. The patients perceived body care as a significant daily activity that needed to be carried out in order to preserve their integrity. Dependency and breathlessness, however, impeded the performance of body care activities and patients were struggling for self-preservation. They managed APBC by using a threefold strategy of not letting go, coping with dependency, and minimizing the risk of escalating breathlessness. Two dilemmas were identified as being inherent to the strategy.
Conclusion. Increased knowledge of the complexities involved in providing assistance might improve nurses’ ability to facilitate patients in managing APBC. Dependency is a central issue to address in order to support patients’ efforts to preserve integrity and resolve dilemmas inherent to the strategy they use.