Relatives’ experiences with abuse and neglect in Norwegian nursing homes. A qualitative study
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionBMC Health Services Research. 2021, 21, 1-14. 10.1186/s12913-021-06713-9
Background Elder abuse in nursing homes (NH) is a widespread and complex problem. Residents’ ability to share their experiences are impeded, due to a high degree of cognitive problems and frailty, and previous studies are thus mainly based on reports from staff. Therefore, we aimed to give voice to the residents by investigating their relatives’ experiences with elder abuse in NH. Methods Qualitative individual interviews were conducted with 16 relatives of residents with experience of abuse and/or neglect in NH. Content analysis was used to analyse the data. Results Relatives perceived neglect as most pervasive and staff-to-resident psychological abuse as a key problem. Physical abuse was mostly related to resident-to-resident aggression. Relatives perceived elder abuse in NH to be related to low competence among staff, low staffing, poor NH leadership, working cultures characterized by fear and loyalty to employer or co-workers, and a lack of individualized care for the residents. Furthermore, relatives themselves experienced maltreatment from NH, which caused them to suffer stress, anxiety and distrust. Relatives also expressed a need to compensate for lack of care. Conclusions Relatives of NH residents who had experienced abuse reported that neglect of basic care and individual rights was predominant and viewed organizational explanations as most important. Relatives perceive themselves as collaborators in care and are emotionally attached to their family member. Therefore, if relatives experience resident abuse or neglect, it inflicts a feeling of being mistreated themselves, particularly if they are not listened to or their notice of abuse on the part of the resident is ignored or trivialized. Including relatives in a committed partnership with NH in care practices is not only a valuable path to reduce the risk of abuse, but it also leads to a more sustainable healthcare with high standards of quality and safety.