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Being altruistically egoistic—Nursing aides’ experiences of caring for older persons with mental disorders

Author(s): Gunilla Martinsson | Lena Wiklund-Gustin | Christina Lindholm | Ingegerd Fagerberg

Journal: International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health & Well-Being
ISSN 1748-2623

Volume: 6;
Issue: 4;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: Aged | care of older people | mental disorders | municipal care of the old | nursing aides | phenomenological hermeneutics

Older persons with mental disorders, excluding dementia disorders, constitute a vulnerable group of people. With the future international increase in the older population, mental disorders will increase as well, thus entailing new challenges for their caregivers. These older persons often remain in their own homes, and in Sweden they are cared for by nursing aides. With little previous research, an increased workload and facing new strenuous situations, it is important to make use of the knowledge the nursing aides possess and to deepen the understanding of their experiences. The study aimed at illuminating the meaning of caring for older persons with mental disorders as experienced by nursing aides in the municipal home help service. Interviews with nine female nursing aides were performed and analysed with a phenomenological hermeneutical research method inspired by the philosophy of Paul Ricoeur. Being altruistically egoistic emerged as a main theme in the nursing aides’ narratives. The nursing aides’ experiences could be interpreted as a movement between being altruistic and egoistic. The findings revealed a continuous distancing by the nursing aides and their struggle to redress the balance between their altruistic and egoistic actions. Caring for these older persons constitutes a complex situation where distancing functions as a recourse to prioritize oneself and to diminish the value of caring. The study suggests that an increased knowledge base on older persons with mental disorders, followed by continuous supervision, is necessary for the nursing aides to improve the quality of the care given.
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