Kelsi Deters

University of New Hampshire

Social Work


Mentor: L. Renee Bergeron, M.S.W., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Social Work

The Personal Life History of an Elder: How it is gathered, where it is stored, and with whom is this "life story" shared upon admittance into a nursing care facility?

Studies have shown that frail elders are at greater risk for developing depression and suicidal ideation when relocated to a nursing home (Haight. 1998). Additional research shows that depression is alleviated and abated through interventions such as life review (Haight, Michel, & Hendrix. 1998). Therefore, accurate and complete personal life inventories are fundamental to nursing homes that desire quality care for their residents. The quantity, discrimination, and wise application of resident life histories influence the quality of care given to the resident( Schiedt & Norris-Baker. 1999). Thereby it is important to examine the methods employed by nursing homes in gathering this information. The core question for this study is: How do Seacoast area nursing homes assemble, store, and share the life histories of their residents?

This preliminary, exploratory study examines and identifies 1) what information is assembled about the elder, 2) the method(s) used to record the information, and 3) who has access to the resident's history. Six Seacoast area nursing homes were selected as a convenience sample for this study. The qualitative method employed: 1) a review of each facility's intake forms for a comparative analysis of information, 2) face-to-face taped interviews with the staff member assigned to resident intakes, and 3) a tour of the facility when time allowed. Standard qualitative analysis was used for verbatim transcription with the interviewees.

The preliminary findings of this study show that the nursing homes lack consistency when assembling and disseminating the personal life history of a resident. This deficiency is in direct conflict with current literature. The method of information dissemination seemed to rest upon the value orientation of the staff member assigned to resident intakes. In fact, one nursing home deemed a resident's life history file as 'confidential' thereby keeping it in the office rather than in the 'floor' chart. Therefore, while nursing homes in this study demonstrated a strong commitment to patient care, they did appear to lack efficient protocols which recognize the influence that life histories can have on the quality of patient care. These findings suggest: 1) the development of a universal intake protocol tool, 2) more comprehensive social histories, and 3) improved methods of sharing resident life histories with other residents and staff are needed.

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