Author:Åsa Alftberg (Malmö University)
Paper short abstract:
Even though nursing homes are perceived as places where older persons “come to die”, thoughts about death and dying are seldom talked about. This paper explores how nursing assistants experience “dwelling near death”, and how they communicate about death and dying with the nursing home residents.
Paper long abstract:
The modern death is privatized and individualized, secluded to specific establishments such as hospitals and nursing homes. This means that the professionals of these establishments are given the role as experts on death and dying, and how to die well. The longing for authenticity and self-reflexion in modern society also creates certain expectations on death and dying, where the dying process is regarded as a revelation of the essence of human existence, with truthfulness and genuineness at its peak. Accordingly, dwelling near death means, amongst other things, to perform existential conversations. These conversations are expected to help the dying individual to prepare for death, to create a closing of what has been (life), and an opening to what is to come (death). This is regarded as essential in order to produce the good and dignified death. The expectations on the care professionals - in this case the nursing assistants - is to facilitate such expressions and insights by encouraging the residents to talk about their feelings and thoughts about death and dying.
Much of previous research is based on the professionals' narratives or rhetoric of their experiences, and less is known about how palliative care in older people's nursing homes is given in practice. Using an ethnographic approach based upon participant observations, this paper aims to explore how nursing assistants experience "dwelling near death", and how they respond to communication about death and dying with the nursing home residents.
Ways of dwelling: a phenomenological approach