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Geriatr Gerontol Int. 2014 Jan;14(1):212-9. doi: 10.1111/ggi.12066. Epub 2013 Apr 15.

Non-capable residents: is the experience of dependence understood in nursing homes? A qualitative study.

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Department of Nursing, Obstetrics, Gynecology, Pediatrics, and Psychiatry, Rey Juan Carlos University, Madrid, Spain.



The aim of the present study was to describe how dependence was experienced by Spanish nursing home residents with functional limitations.


A qualitative phenomenological approach was followed. An initial purposeful sampling of Spanish residents in for-profit nursing homes in the southern area of Madrid was carried out. Theoretical sampling was also implemented in order to gain a more in-depth understanding of dependence. The inclusion criteria for nursing home residents were: aged 60 years old or older, having a functional impairment (Barthel Index <90), and lack of any cognitive impairment (Mini-Mental State Examination-Folstein >19) and able to communicate verbally in Spanish. Data were collected using unstructured and semi-structured interviews. The interviews were tape recorded and fully transcribed. Data collection was concluded once theoretical saturation was reached, and the data were analyzed using the Giorgi proposal.


A total of 30 residents (15 female and 15 male) with a mean age of 83 years were included. Two main themes that describe the significance of dependence in nursing homes emerged from the data: (i) remaining "capable", with one subtheme named "building the difference", where residents described their own dependence classification of "non-capable" residents; and (ii) "sharing life", with two subthemes named "living together with non-capable residents" and "sharing the environment". Being considered as "non-capable" is labelling the resident forever.


The dependence experience of Spanish nursing home residents might help us gain a deeper insight into their expectations about functional limitations, as well as to understand the change in the relationship between residents considered "non-capable", caregivers and the other residents.


dependence; nursing care; nursing homes; qualitative research

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