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Dignity Therapy for older people in care homes: a qualitative study of the views of residents and recipients of ‘generativity’ documents

Authors

  • Cassie Goddard,

    1. Cassie Goddard BSc MSc Research Assistant Department of Palliative Care, Policy and Rehabilitation, Cicely Saunders Institute, King’s College London, UK
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  • Peter Speck,

    1. Peter Speck BSc MA DPS Senior Honorary Lecturer Department of Palliative Care, Policy and Rehabilitation, Cicely Saunders Institute, King’s College London, UK
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  • Pauline Martin,

    1. Pauline Martin BSc MSc Research Assistant Department of Palliative Care, Policy and Rehabilitation, Cicely Saunders Institute, King’s College London, UK
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  • Sue Hall

    1. Sue Hall BSc PhD Cpsychol Senior Lecturer Department of Palliative Care, Policy and Rehabilitation, Cicely Saunders Institute, King’s College London, UK
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C. Goddard:
e-mail: cassie.goddard@kcl.ac.uk

Abstract

Aim.  To report the findings of a study exploring the views and experiences of care home resident’s family on Dignity Therapy.

Background.  As the proportion of older people dying in care homes increases, it is important to enhance their dignity, reduce distress at the end-of-life, and provide bereavement support to their families. Pilot studies show that hospice patients and care home residents feel Dignity Therapy had or would help their families; however, there are no qualitative studies of their views.

Design.  Qualitative exploration.

Methods.  Qualitative interviews were conducted between January 2009–March 2010 with 14 family members of care home residents who had received Dignity Therapy. The Framework approach to qualitative analysis was used.

Findings.  Four categories are reported: views on the document: impact on residents; impact on family; and potential impact on care homes. While contact with the therapist provided much needed company for residents, Dignity Therapy helped residents reappraise aspects of their lives positively, while enjoying the opportunity to reminisce. Concerns focused on resident’s anxiety over document content. Memory problems and perceived lack of distress in some residents were viewed as factors affecting delivery and impact of Dignity Therapy. Family discovered new information and were prompted to discuss the content with them. For bereaved family members, documents provided comfort during their grief. If made available to carers, documents could enhance care delivery in homes.

Conclusion.  Family members felt Dignity Therapy had helped them and the residents. Findings suggest that Dignity Therapy may be useful for enhancing the end-of-life experience for residents and their families.

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