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Keywords:

  • meaning and purpose-in-life;
  • nursing-home patients;
  • quality of life;
  • symptoms

Aims and objectives

To investigate the prevalence of physical and emotional symptoms and the associations between symptoms and meaning-in-life in a cognitively intact nursing-home population.

Background

Meaning has been found to be a strong individual predictor of successful ageing and life satisfaction as well as an important psychological variable that promotes well-being. Meaning serves as a mediating variable in both psychological and physical health.

Design and methods

The study employed a cross-sectional design. Data were collected in 2008 and 2009 using the QLQ-C15-PAL quality-of-life questionnaire, the purpose-in-life test and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. A total of 250 cognitively intact nursing-home patients who met the inclusion criteria were approached and 202 attended.

Results

The prevalence of symptoms was fairly high, with fatigue (57%), pain (49%), constipation (43%) and dyspnoea (41%) as the most frequent physical symptoms, while 30% were depressed and 12% had anxiety. Significant correlations between meaning-in-life and symptom severity were displayed.

Conclusions

The level of symptom severity among cognitively intact nursing-home patients is high, requiring highly competent staff nurses. Meaning-in-life might be an important resource in relation to a patient's physical and emotional health and global well-being.

Relevance to clinical practice

Facilitating patients' meaning-in-life might help reducing symptom severity and fostering quality of life in cognitively intact nursing-home patients. However, advancing staff nurses' competence in palliative care, symptom management and nurse–patient interaction is important for care quality and quality if life in nursing homes.