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Age Ageing. 2012 Jul;41(4):429-40. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afs069. Epub 2012 Jun 7.

Living well in care homes: a systematic review of qualitative studies.

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Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX, UK.



research in care home settings is often negatively focused, portraying life as sterile and devoid of meaningful experiences. Care homes have the potential to influence people's lives socially, physically and psychologically. It is important to understand what factors contribute to this.


to conduct a systematic qualitative review of care home life and provide practical recommendations to enhance residents' quality of life.


the following databases were searched: PsycINFO, Medline, Web of Science, EMBASE, Allied and Complementary Medicine Database and Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature. References from appropriate journals and individual articles were checked. Papers that fitted our selection criteria were selected. Two independent reviewers assessed methodological study quality. Thematic analysis and meta-ethnographic methods were adapted to synthesise findings.


thirty-one studies were identified. People in care homes voiced concerns about lack of autonomy and difficulty in forming appropriate relationships with others. Four key themes were identified: (i) acceptance and adaptation, (ii) connectedness with others, (iii) a homelike environment, (iv) caring practices.


positive experiences in care homes can occur and are important for residents' quality of life. The review supports literature highlighting the need for relationship-centred approaches to care and emphasises the importance of understanding the resident's attitude towards living in care homes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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