Living alone with dementia: an interpretive phenomenological study with older women
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AIM: This paper is a report of a study of the meaning of living alone from the perspective of older people with dementia. BACKGROUND: Risks and problems experienced by older women living alone have been investigated mostly through quantitative research. Balancing their safety and autonomy is a serious international community care dilemma. Older people's perspectives have been muted in qualitative research on living alone with dementia. METHOD: Using an interpretive phenomenological approach and van Manen's method, 14 interviews were conducted in Ontario, Canada from January 2004 to April 2005 with eight older women diagnosed with Alzheimer disease or a related dementia. FINDINGS: The theme holding back time expressed the temporal meaning of living alone. Pharmacological treatments represented stored time, offering the opportunity to hold back future dreaded time. Past experience with others with dementia was a context for holding on to now and facing some risks of living alone with memory loss. The women acknowledged the limited time remaining for, and identified endpoints to, living alone. CONCLUSION: Insight into the impact of past experience with others with dementia could inform nursing assessment and advocacy for health/social services that are sensitive to the potential emotional impact of mixing people with varied levels of dementia in the same programme.
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