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The nursing home as a home: a field study of residents’ daily life in the common living rooms


  • Solveig Hauge PhD, RN,

  • Heggen Kristin PhD, RN

Solveig Hauge
Faculty of Health Sciences Vestfold University College PO Box 2243 N-3103 Tønsberg Norway
Telephone: +47 33 03 12 58


Aim.  This Norwegian-based study investigates how and to what extent the idea of the nursing home as a home has been realized.

Background.  For the last two decades, Norway, as other Western Country has had an explicit national policy that nursing homes should become more like homes. The research literature indicates that residents in nursing home seem to lack the opportunities to maintain a private sphere.

Design.  A field study design was conducted.

Methods.  Data were collected in 1999 in two long-term units in a traditional nursing home by using participant observation and interviewing the residents. A phenomenological hermeneutic analysis strategy was used to get an impression of the residents’ everyday life.

Results.  The residents spend most of their time in the common living room. The common living room has an ambiguous boundary between the public and private spheres, unlike the clear boundaries characterizing a home. The relationship among the residents is fragile, and the residents who can, withdraw from the common living room.

Conclusions.  Despite having single rooms and more home-like interior decoration, the residents in nursing home still have reduced opportunity to develop a private everyday lifestyle. The long-term unit examined in this research had a forced relationship between the residents, and the residents with best health resources systematically withdraw from the common area to control both where and with whom they wish to spend their time.

Relevance to clinical practice.  This study lays the foundation for rethinking daily routines in long-term units in nursing homes. One way to realize the idea of the nursing home as a home could be to define the living room as a clear public area and to give the residents a chance to develop a more private lifestyle by alternating between their private rooms and a public common living room.