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Dignity in the life of people with head injuries


Å. Slettebø:


Title. Dignity in the life of people with head injuries.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study conducted to determine how people who suffer from head injuries perceive respect for their dignity and to discover what patients mean by the concept of ‘dignity’.

Background.  We know something about what the phenomenon of dignity means. However, we still lack knowledge about how patients perceive dignity in their lives and how dignity may be fostered and supported.

Methods.  Qualitative interviews were carried out during 2007 with 14 patients suffering from head injuries, diagnosed as having mild to moderate disability. The study was explorative and descriptive, with a content analysis.

Findings.  Patients experienced their dignity as maintained when they were taken seriously, received appropriate information and were reality-oriented. They experienced their dignity as violated if they had been neglected or had encountered healthcare personnel who lacked knowledge, were sceptical about their stories, and where the patient experienced extra burden when they were mistrusted. The importance of adequate information was underscored. As interviewees said, head injuries do not show on the outside and people with head injuries do not have a high status in society.

Conclusion.  Patients living with head injuries should be informed about consequences and be taught strategies for how to live with head injuries as early as possible after the injury in order to maintain dignity.