Research Abstracts: Dignity for Older People

Title: Who are you? Exploring strategies for interrelating with elders living with dementia in residential care – an ethnographic study
Author: Callaby, Pilar L M
Reference: Generations Review, 17(3), July 2007 (published online)

Irreversible dementia is challenging for everyone concerned. This ethnographic study examines the interrelations between elders with dementia, their primary caregivers and their immediate family members within a residential environment. Using symbolic interaction and thematic analysis to interpret the data, six themes were identified: security, abandonment, attachment, verbal and non-verbal communication, and interrelation through touch. A variety of skills used in avoiding challenging behaviour are presented, with a view to extending these skills across dementia care settings to encourage continuity of care in the home.

Title: Social relations, language and cognition in the ‘oldest old’
Author: Keller-Cohen, Deborah et al
Reference: Ageing and Society, 26(4), July 2006, pp.585-605

This paper reports a study of the associations between social relations, language and cognition among people aged 85-plus (the “oldest old”). Although the links between cognition and both social relations and language ability are well established, less is known about the connection between social relations and language skills, especially among the oldest old. The conclusion critically examines the findings about the influence of family relationships and the importance of residential setting.

Title: Dignity: the voice of older people
Author: Bayer, Tony;  Tadd, Win; Krajcik, Stefan
Reference Quality in Ageing: Policy Practice and Research, 6(1), June 2005, pp22-29

Reports on the findings of 89 focus group and individual interviews, involving 391 people aged 61-plus in six European countries. The study was carried out with the aim of exploring how older people view human dignity in their lives. It was seen as highly relevant and important concept, enhancing self-esteem, self-worth and well-being. Three major themes were identified: respect and recognition participant and involvement and dignity in care. The empirical data reflected the theoretical model of human dignity in that it considered the dignity of personal identity as of importance and relevance. In conclusion, the authors assert that for the dignity of older people to be enhanced, communication issues, privacy, personal identity and feelings of vulnerability need to be addressed.

Title: Enabling frail older people with a communication difficulty to express their views: the use of Talking Mats as an interview tool
Author: Murphy, Joan et al
Reference: Health and Social Care in the Community, 13(2), March 2005, pp95-107

The aim was to obtain the views of frail older people with communication impairments using an innovative interviewing method, Talking Mats. The findings are presented visually, and the four life themes are discussed with reference to the different participants. Many insights were gained, such as the participants’ views of the activities they liked and disliked, and the views of some of the people in the study about their nursing home environment. The advantages of the Talking Mats as an interview method for research, practice and policy in the care of frail older people are described. The study concludes that Talking Mats is a useful and enjoyable method of allowing frail older people with a communication disability to express views which they have difficulty conveying otherwise.


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