The elderly : reminiscing, coping with loss, accepting death
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This study investigated loss, death and dying, reminiscing, coping and the process of adaptation from the sUbjective perspective. A number of theories and models of death and dying were reviewed in the background literature search with the focus on reminiscing as a coping phenomenon. The format of the study was audio-taped interviews with ten sUbjects and the recording of their memories and reminiscing of life stories. The sUbjects were required to complete an initial questionnaire in a demographic data collection process. Two separate interviews consisted of a primary data collecting interview and a verification interview four to eight weeks later. An independent chart review completed the data collecting process. Data analysis was by the examination of the emerging themes in the subjects' personal narratives which revealed the sUb-categories of reminiscing, loss (including death and dying), acceptance, hope, love, despair and belief. Belief was shown to be the foundation and the base for living and reminiscing. Reminiscing was found to be a coping phenomenon, within the foundation of a belief system. Both living and reminiscing revealed the existence of a central belief or value with a great deal of importance attached to it. Whether the belief was of a spiritual nature, a value of marriage, tradition, a work ethic or belief in an abstract value such as fate,it gave support and control to the individuals' living and reminiscing process. That which caused despair or allowed acceptance indicated the sUbjects' basic belief and was identified in the story narrations. The findings were significant to health care in terms of education, increased dignity for the elderly and better understanding by society. The profiles represented an average age of 86.3 years with age showing no bearing on the life experiences associated with the emerging themes. Overwhelmingly, belief was shown to be the foundation in reminiscing. A Judeo-Christian cultural value base supported the belief in 90% of the sUbjects; however, different beliefs were clearly shown indicating that belief is central to all thinking beings, in everyday life and in reminiscing. Belief was not necessarily spiritual or a practised or verbalized religion. It was shown to be a way of understanding, a fundamental and single thread tying the individual's life and stories together. The benefits were the outcomes, in that knowledge of an individual's belief can optimize care planning for any age group, and/or setting. The strength of the study was the open question format and the feedback process of data verification. The unrestricted outcomes and non-specificity were significant in a world where dying is everybody's business.