Aim To explore what life was like for frail older people, classed as ‘delayed discharges’.
Background Delayed discharge or ‘bed blocking’ is when a patient is inappropriately occupying a hospital bed. Most delayed discharges are frail older people who are waiting until a care home bed is available for them to move to. This paper explores what life was like for some people who were living in such a state of transition.
Methods An ethnographic approach was employed, using a variety of methods. This paper discusses one of the methods used; participant observation on a ward for older people classed as delayed discharge. The researcher visited the ward for over a year, field notes and interviews were transcribed and the data analysed using thematic analysis.
Results The frail older people were anxious about their futures. Not one voiced their anxieties to staff and the findings showed they felt unsupported during this critical and final stage in their lives.
Conclusions In order to support frail older people undergoing a major life event, staff need to be aware of the effect of the stress involved for those who know they have to move on and yet have no control over their destiny.
Implications for nursing management Qualified and unqualified staff need to understand that patients in transition have many anxieties about their futures. The stress of moving on should be sensitively addressed in everyday care.