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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Nurses’ and care workers’ experiences of spiritual needs in residents with dementia in nursing homes: a qualitative study

Liv Ødbehr12*, Kari Kvigne13, Solveig Hauge45 and Lars Johan Danbolt67

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Nursing and Mental Health, Faculty of Public Health, Hedmark University College, P.O Box 400, N- 2418, Elverum, Norway

2 Institute of Health and Society, Department of Nursing Science, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1130 Blindern, N- 0318 Oslo, Norway

3 Institute of Nurse Education, Nesna University College, N- 8700 Nesna, Norway

4 Institute of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health and Social Studies, Telemark University College, N- 3901 Porsgrunn, Norway

5 Centre of Caring Research-Sothern Norway, Institute of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health and Social Studies, Telemark University College, N- 3901 Porsgrunn, Norway

6 Center for psychology and religion, Innlandet Hospital Trust, P.O. Box 68, N- 2312, Ottestad, Norway

7 Oslo School of Theology, P.O. Box 1153, Blindern N- 0318 Oslo, Norway

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BMC Nursing 2014, 13:12  doi:10.1186/1472-6955-13-12

Published: 15 April 2014

Abstract

Background

The aim of the study was to investigate nurses’ and care workers’ experiences of spiritual needs among residents with dementia in nursing homes. Nurses claim to practice holistic nursing. Nevertheless, there is little knowledge about how to recognise spiritual needs in residents with dementia.

Methods

The study was conducted using a qualitative method with an exploratory design. Eight focus- group interviews in four Norwegian nursing homes were performed from June 2011 – Jan 2012. Using open-ended research questions, a total of 31 participants were asked to share their understanding and experiences regarding residents’ spiritual needs. The interviews were analysed using a phenomenological – hermeneutical method.

Results

The nurses’ and care workers’ experiences of residents’ spiritual needs were related to three main themes; i) The need for serenity and inner peace, described as “contemplative and restful moments” and “calmness due to familiarity”, ii) The need for confirmation, described as “love and proximity” and iii) The need to express faith and beliefs, described as “participate in worship and prayers” and “approaching death”.

The comprehensive analyses revealed that the nurses believe the residents’ spiritual needs were linked to the residents’ previous sources of finding meaning, in relation to inter-personal, intra-personal and trans-personal dimensions in residents’ lives.

Conclusions

Nurses' and care workers’ experiences of spiritual needs in people with dementia are very similar to the findings for the general population regardless of the severity of the dementia. The study’s relevance to clinical practice indicates the importance of developing more knowledge about how people with dementia in nursing homes express spiritual needs and how to observe and interpret such needs.

Keywords:
Spiritual needs; Dementia; Nursing home; Phenomenological hermeneutics; Nursing care