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Public Health Nurs. 2003 May-Jun;20(3):237-47.

Older women's perceptions of independence versus dependence in food-related work.

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  • 1Department of Public Health Care and Caring Sciences, Caring Sciences, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.


This qualitative study aims to explore the cultural meaning of accomplishing food-related work by older women, when disease has diminished their abilities and threatens to make them dependent. Seventy-two women with stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, and Parkinson's disease, as well as women without those diseases, were interviewed. All were living at home. Results showed that older women valued independence and feared dependence when declining ability threatened performance of food-related work. They also had strong beliefs about living a "normal life," managing by oneself as long as possible, and becoming their own masters again. To remain independent, participants used three kinds of strategies: Public Health Service Support, self-managing, and adaptation. Their beliefs about dependence included not becoming a burden, retaining self-determination, and maintaining order in life. Implications for nursing include supporting independent cooking, developing care plans with the care recipient, and demonstrating respect for the women's self-determination.

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