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Care home life and identity: A qualitative case study

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

E-pub ahead of print
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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>4/08/2018
<mark>Journal</mark>The Gerontologist
Number of pages10
StateE-pub ahead of print
Early online date4/08/18
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Background and Objectives
The transition to a care home can involve multiple changes and losses that can affect an older person’s well-being and identity. It is not clear how older people perceive and manage their identity within a care home over time. This study explores how living in a care home affects the identities of residents and how they address this in their daily lives.

Research Design and Methods
A multiple qualitative case study approach incorporated interview and observational data. Eighteen semistructured interviews and 260 hr of observations were conducted over 1 year with care home residents, relatives, and staff across three care homes within Greater Manchester, UK. Data were analyzed using framework analysis, drawing on the social identity perspective as an interpretive lens.

Results
Four themes were identified: (a) changing with age, (b) independence and autonomy, (c) bounded identity, and (d) social comparison. The impact of aging that initially altered residents’ identities was exacerbated by the care home environment. Institutional restrictions jeopardized independence and autonomy, provoking residents to redefine this within the allowances of the care home. Strict routines and resource constraints of well-meaning staff resulted in the bounded expression of personalities. Consequently, to forge a positive identity, residents without dementia engaged in social comparison with residents with dementia, emphasizing their superior cognitive and physical abilities.

Discussion and Implications
Social comparison as an adaptive strategy has previously been unidentified in care home literature. Residents need more support to express their identities, which may reduce the necessity of social comparison, and improve interrelationships and well-being.