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Published: 2021-06-01

Opening doors to thriving in nursing homes

NEWS Rebecca Baxter's thesis aimed to explore the meanings, expressions, measurements, and associations for thriving in nursing homes. Her findings highlight the importance of discovering what contributes to resident experiences of thriving so that these aspects can be considered in relation to the person’s everyday care and lived environment. Taking a person-centred approach to care could possibly support thriving by illuminating the person’s needs, wants, and desires.

Demand for formal care in nursing homes has steadily increased in recent decades, prompting calls for exploration of positive and health-promoting concepts that support people not only to survive in older age, but to thrive. The concept of thriving has emerged in recent times as a useful multi-disciplinary life-span theory that can be used to explore experiences of place-related well-being among older persons and populations.

Rebecca conducted interviews with Australian nursing home staff and residents, and analysed survey data from Swedish nursing homes. Interviews with Australian nursing home residents regarding the meanings of thriving were interpreted using the imagery of a door. Meanings of thriving were understood to include having different doors to open (i.e., having options), and the freedom to open, close, or use these doors as the person wishes (i.e., having choices).

Interviews with Australian nursing home staff showed that nurses recognised expressions of thriving through a combination of understanding, observing, and sensing. Her findings revealed that thriving seemed to be a relevant and meaningful concept with shared understandings among nursing home residents and staff. This has provided valuable support for the ongoing assessment and application of the concept of thriving in international and cross-cultural settings.

The measurement scale for thriving (the Thriving of Older People Assessment Scale - TOPAS) was also evaluated, and appeared valid and reliable to facilitate proxy-rated measurement of thriving among nursing home residents. A short-form TOPAS was developed which could have enhanced use for the assessment of thriving in research and practice. Further, thriving was found to have increased over a five-year period in a sample of Swedish nursing homes and was associated with several neuropsychiatric symptoms, providing important information for future measurements and comparisons of thriving over time.

Rebecca Baxter is a Registered Nurse and holds a Bachelor of Nursing from UCOL, New Zealand, and a Master of Nursing from La Trobe University, Australia.

About the public defence of the doctoral thesis

Rebecca Baxter, Department of Nursing, defends her doctoral thesis Life is for living - Exploring thriving for older people living in nursing homes on Thursday the 3rd of June at 0900 am. Opponent: Professor Lisbeth Fagerström, Health sciences, Faculty of Education and Welfare Studies, Åbo Akademi, Finland. Principal supervisor: Professor David Edvardsson. The event will be in English and held over zoom: https://umu.zoom.us/j/68530201469


Rebecca Baxter
Associate professor