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Int J Qual Stud Health Well-being. 2012;7. doi: 10.3402/qhw.v7i0.18422. Epub 2012 Jun 7.

Struggling for existence-Life situation experiences of older persons with mental disorders.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

Abstract

Older persons with mental disorders represent a vulnerable group of people with extensive and complex needs. The older population is rapidly increasing worldwide and, as a result of deinstitutionalization in mental health care, older persons are remaining at home to a greater extent. Although they constitute a large proportion of the population, older persons with mental disorders have been neglected in research as well as in care organizations. As there is little previous knowledge concerning older persons' experiences of their own situations, this study aimed to illuminate the meaning of the life situation as experienced by older persons with mental disorders (excluding dementia disorders). Interviews were conducted with seven older persons and the text was analyzed using a phenomenological hermeneutical research method, inspired by the philosophy of Paul Ricoeur. "Struggling for existence" emerged as a main theme in the older persons' narratives, understood as a loss of dignity of identity and involving being troubled and powerless as well as yearning for respect. The older persons fought to master their existence and to be seen for who they are. The study highlights the importance for caregivers, both formal and informal, to avoid focusing on the diagnoses and rather acknowledge the older persons and their lifeworld, be present in the relation and help them rebuild their dignity of identity. This study brings a new understanding about older persons with mental disorders that may help reduce stigma and contribute to planning future mental health care.

KEYWORDS:

Aged; gerontology; mental disorders; municipal care of the old; phenomenological hermeneutics; psychiatry

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