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Older persons' existential loneliness, as interpreted by their significant others: an interview study
Kristianstad University, School of Health and Society, Avdelningen för Sjuksköterskeutbildningarna. Kristianstad University, Research Platform for Collaboration for Health. Malmö University.
Malmö University.
Malmo University.
2017 (English)In: BMC Geriatrics, E-ISSN 1471-2318, Vol. 17, no 1Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: In order to better understand people in demanding medical situations, an awareness of existential concerns is important. Studies performed over the last twenty years conclude that when dying and death come closer, as in the case with older people who are stricken by infirmity and diseases, existential concerns will come to the fore. However, studies concerning experiences of existential loneliness (EL) are sparse and, in addition, there is no clear definition of EL. EL is described as a complex phenomenon and referred to as a condition of life, an experience, and a process of inner growth. Listening to someone who knows the older person well, as significant others often do, may be one way of learning more about EL. Methods: This study is part of a larger research project on EL, the LONE study, where EL is explored through interviews with frail older people, their significant others and health care professionals. The aim of this study was to explore frail older (> 75) persons' EL, as interpreted by their significant others. The study is qualitative and based on eighteen narrative interviews with nineteen significant others of older persons. The data was analysed using Hsieh and Shannon's conventional content analysis. Results: According to the interpretation of significant others, the older persons experience EL (1) when they are increasingly limited in body and space, (2) when they are in a process of disconnecting, and (3) when they are disconnected from the outside world. Conclusion: The result can be understood as if the frail older person is in a process of letting go of life. This process involves the body, in that the older person is increasingly limited in his/her physical abilities. The older person's long-term relationships are gradually lost, and finally the process entails the older person's increasingly withdrawing into him- or herself and turning off the outside world. The result of this study is consistent with previous research that has shown that EL is a complex phenomenon, but the implications of this research include a deepened understanding of EL. In addition, the study highlights the interpretations of significant others.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. Vol. 17, no 1
Keywords [en]
Existential loneliness, Significant other, Older person, Qualitative, Interview study, Content analysis
National Category
Nursing
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hkr:diva-17072DOI: 10.1186/s12877-017-0533-1ISI: 000405859700001PubMedID: 28693445OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hkr-17072DiVA, id: diva2:1130600
Available from: 2017-08-10 Created: 2017-08-10 Last updated: 2024-07-04Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Existentiell ensamhet hos sköra äldre personer: ett närståendeperspektiv
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Existentiell ensamhet hos sköra äldre personer: ett närståendeperspektiv
2020 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this thesis was to explore existential loneliness from the perspective of significant others, to contrast their perceptions with frail older people’s experiences and to describe significant others’ and family care advisors’ views on existential support. This thesis is part of a larger research project about existential loneliness among frail older people, the LONE study. The thesis embraces three qualitative and one quantitative study. A total of 29 significant others, 15 frail older people and 120 family care advisors participated in the studies. The significant others were husbands, wives, daughters, sons, other relatives and friends to frail older people. The concept ‘frail older people’ was defined as older persons (≥ 75 years old) dependent on long-term health- or social care. The qualitative studies were based on multistage focus-group interviews (study I) and individual interviews (studies II and III). The quantitative study (IV) had a cross-sectional design and was based on a questionnaire specifically developed for the current study. Different methods to analyse data were used; hermeneutics (study I), content analysis (study II), a case study with thematic analysis (study III) and descriptive statistics (study IV). Findings from the four studies show that existential loneliness emerges when: 1) Longing for, but also striving for, a deeper feeling of connectedness, 2) Being in, but also enduring, an unwanted separation, and 3) Not finding, but still trying to recreate meaning. This thesis also shows that existential loneliness is often experienced in so-called limit situations in life and arises in difficult choices related to close relationships, in connection with experiences of meaninglessness and in the absence of connection to something or someone. The results show that existential loneliness emerges in the process of balancing between what was and what is to come in the unknown future. Significant others navigate themselves, and sometimes together with the older person, through an unfamiliar existence that makes them feel ambivalent about the de-cisions they have previously made and the decisions they need to make in the future, while also doubting the meaning in their current situation. Existential support should mainly focus on transition phases and on relational aspects. Person-centredness can be a way to make the existential needs of significant others and older people visible and to provide support based on their needs.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Malmö: Malmö universitet, 2020. p. 164
Series
Malmö University Health and Society Doctoral Dissertation, ISSN 1653-5383 ; 2020:1
Keywords
Existential loneliness, frail older people, significant others, Existentiell ensamhet, äldre personer, närstående
National Category
Nursing
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hkr:diva-21434 (URN)9789178770618 (ISBN)9789178770625 (ISBN)
Projects
LONE-study
Available from: 2020-12-17 Created: 2020-12-17 Last updated: 2022-12-08Bibliographically approved

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Avdelningen för SjuksköterskeutbildningarnaResearch Platform for Collaboration for Health
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