Life as a care home resident in later years : "living with care" or "existing in care"
Despite a widely accepted view of the importance of understanding experience from the point of view of the individual using services in modern western society, there are relatively few studies that have explored day-to-day living in a care home from the older person's perspective. This study aimed to present the voice of the untold stories of care home residents through an interpretative study that was informed by a biographical approach and narrative method. Eight older people who lived in four different care homes in England participated in a sequence of up to eight narrative interviews over a six month period. Through the process of listening to, retelling and interpreting the residents' stories the resident world was explored. There were three stages to the interpretative process that focused on:- developing a naïve or surface understanding to acquire a sense of the whole sequence of a participant's interviews; a structural analysis that examined the interviews to investigate what the text said and how it was said; and a critical in-depth examination of the interpretation within the wider social context. The interpretation revealed the unique way that each participant lived in a care home. These older people worked hard to reconstruct their life following the move to a care home and as they lived there. Though the residents were limited by physical, functional and cognitive problems, they developed strategies with the aim of influencing the life that they lived within a care home. Where they were able to implement those strategies they reconstructed their life in ways whereby they 'lived with care.' In this sense they were active biographical agents shaping this phase of their life. This is an alternative biography, to that of older people 'existing in care' as an outcome of care received. This thesis provides new insights into the residents' world. The overriding conclusion that can be drawn from these stories is that these older people were trying to live as active biographical agents who were instrumental in shaping their own life. They were able to do this to a greater or lesser extent and the conceptual model of biographical living that has been developed from the resident stories provides a framework to depict the complex interactions that shape an individual's experience in this environment. An inherent feature of this model is recognition that residents can be active agents throughout their lives in care homes. In summary, residents' desire to 'live with care' and this is not only possible, it is achievable.