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Open Access Research article

‘Familiarity’ as a key factor influencing rural family carers’ experience of the nursing home placement of an older relative: a qualitative study

Assumpta Ryan1* and Hugh McKenna12

Author Affiliations

1 School of Nursing and Institute of Nursing and Health Research, University of Ulster, Cromore Road, Coleraine, Co. Londonderry BT52 1SA, Northern Ireland

2 Institute of Nursing and Health Research, University of Ulster, Cromore Road, Coleraine, Co. Londonderry BT52 1SA, Northern Ireland

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BMC Health Services Research 2013, 13:252  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-252

Published: 3 July 2013

Abstract

Background

Admission to a nursing home is generally regarded as a stressful time for older people and their carers. Although the choice of home is significant in facilitating a more positive transition, few studies have explored this issue in detail, particularly in the context of rural communities. With a worldwide ageing population and an increasing demand for long-term care facilities, it is important to highlight the factors that can improve the experience of entry to long-term care and the role of nursing home staff in facilitating a more positive transition for older people and their families.

Methods

The overall aim of this qualitative study was to explore rural family carers’ experience of the nursing home placement of an older relative. Semi structured interviews were conducted with 29 relatives of nursing home residents. Participants were selected from a large health and social care trust in the United Kingdom. Data were analysed using grounded theory principles and procedures and NVivo software.

Results

Rural family carers had a strong sense of familiarity with the nursing homes in their area and this appeared to permeate all aspects of their experience. Carers who reported a high degree of familiarity appeared to experience a more positive transition than others. This familiarity was influenced by the high degree of social capital that was present in the rural community where the study was conducted. This familiarity, in turn, influenced the choice of nursing home and the responses of family carers. The theory that emerged suggests that familiarity was the key factor influencing rural family carers’ experience of the nursing home placement of an older relative.

Conclusions

The population of the world is ageing and nursing homes are increasingly providing care to older people with multiple and complex needs. This study makes an important contribution to the ways in which the move to long term care can be managed more effectively by increasing awareness of the importance of familiarity, stability and social capital in the lives of older people and their carers.

Keywords:
Family carers; Nursing homes; Older people; Rural health care