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End-of-life care in private nursing homes

A new report from DCU’s School of Nursing & Human Sciences reveals a strong and undiminished tradition of care for older people amongst families in Ireland, challenging perceptions of family members abdicating responsibilities to state and private nursing homes. 

The Journey Through Death and Dying:  Families’ Experiences of the End-of-Life Care in Private Nursing Homes authored by DCU academics Dr Mel Duffy and Dr Eileen Courtney and launched today by Kathleen Lynch, Minister of State with Responsibility for Older People, reveals families are making proactive interventions when loved ones can no longer provide for themselves, highlights their struggle in seeking a nursing home and their active engagement in strategies to ensure their loved one is well-cared-for.  The research was commissioned by Nursing Homes Nursing Projects and canvassed opinions from relatives of recently deceased residents within private nursing homes in the Greater Dublin Area

While all participants identified private nursing homes as a place of last resort for their relatives, all ultimately reported a positive experience and expressed satisfaction with the professional care provided to their loved ones at the end of their life.  The report does, however, report a disconnect between medical language and lay understanding and the distress caused to families by the use of derogatory language in the hospital context, such as ‘bed-blockers’. 

Dr Mel Duffy said,
“Our research suggests a strong culture of good practice within private nursing homes, which provide a ‘home from home’ for elderly residents and enable relatives to be with their loved one at the end of life stage.  The report further demonstrates that, where an end-of-life care plan is implemented in partnership with family members, an outcome of good quality care at the end of the resident’s life can be achieved.”

Key recommendations by the authors include a call for greater sensitivity by healthcare professionals to the range of feelings experienced by families in surrendering a loved one to nursing home care and the emotional turmoil they may experience during this transition; a demystification of the jargon used in nursing homes, particularly when used to discuss end-of-life care issues; and the removal of negative language by all health care professionals when referring to older people transiting through the healthcare system.

Dr Eileen Courtney said,
“With the Irish population of over 65s increasing by 20 000 every year, and projections suggesting this may quadruple by 2046, our findings identify the provision of good end-of-life care and palliative care as key priorities for both government and the private sector.  Nursing Homes Ireland recently reported 200 employment opportunities within private and voluntary nursing homes, reflecting an increasing demand for good quality, compassionate end-of-life care.  The implementation of this report’s recommendations will go some way to responding to that need.”

About Nursing Homes Nursing Projects

Established in 2005, Nursing Homes Nursing Projects comprises proprietors, nurse managers and staff nurses in private and public residential care facilities, encompassing a range of activities aimed at providing quality care to residents in nursing homes.


20th June, 2014
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