• family involvement;
  • gerontological nursing;
  • hermeneutics;
  • long-term care;
  • narrative;
  • nursing homes

Aims.  This paper explores the ways family members reconstruct meaning through seizing possibilities for positive caregiving in nursing homes.

Background.  The importance of the ability of family caregivers to adapt and accommodate has been well documented in international family caregiving research. Through engagement in caregiving activities, families learn to modify, adapt and accommodate to changes in their situation and relationships. The support family caregivers experience in learning to accommodate change is crucial in enabling them to reconstruct positive aspects of caregiving in a long-term aged care context.

Method.  In this study, a hermeneutic phenomenological approach was adopted informed by the philosophical world views of Heidegger and Gadamer. Data collected by in-depth interviews and participant observations, from a purposeful sample of 14 family caregivers, underwent hermeneutic analysis.

Results.  Five shared meanings associated with seizing possibilities for positive caregiving were revealed: accommodating new and different ways of caring; feeling a part of the nursing home community; seeing the whole picture; learning to care in stress-reducing ways and learning to seize possibilities for self.

Conclusion.  This paper illustrates how families, through caregiving experience in nursing homes, learn to become active managers, negotiating, accommodating and redeveloping a sense of future viewed with hope, strength and positive anticipation.

Relevance to clinical practice.  By highlighting what is attributed significance by families, a critical examination of the difficult issues which obstruct the development of meaningful partnerships among nurses, family and their relatives is facilitated. In particular, an examination of tensions at an ideological level supports the need for future research to focus its efforts on examining the ways of implementing nursing care that facilitates partnerships that incorporate and build upon positive and equal relations among staff, families and residents in the context of the nursing home setting.