Meaning in life (MiL) is considered to be an important part of health and is associated with many positive outcomes in older adults, such as quality of life and longevity. As health promotors, nurses may take patients’ MiL into account in the care process. There is a knowledge gap in terms of what constitutes good care in relation to older patients’ MiL, and what the benefits may be for patients when nursing is attuned to this aspect. The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of home nursing older adults in relation to nurses’ attunement to MiL.
Gadamerian hermeneutic phenomenological design with semi-structured interviews. Participants were 24 aged home nursing patients. A framework of care ethical evaluation was used in the analysis. Multiple dialogues enhanced understanding.
Patients did not expect nurses’ regard for their MiL. They rather expected ‘normal contact’ and adequate physical care. Nurses showed that they were open to patients’ MiL by being interested in the patient as a person and by being attentive to specific and hidden needs. Participants explained that the nurse’s behaviour upon arrival set the tone: they knew immediately if there was room for MiL or not. All participants had positive and negative experiences with nurses’ behaviour in relation to MiL. Valued nursing care included maintaining a long, kind and reciprocal relationship; doing what was needed; and skilled personalised care. Participants mentioned ‘special ones’: nurses who attuned to them in a special way and did more than expected. Benefits of care that was attuned to patients’ MiL were: experiencing a cheerful moment, feeling secure, feeling like a valuable person and having a good day. Older adults also stressed that consideration for MiL helps identify what is important in healthcare.
Aged homecare patients value nurses’ attunement to their MiL positively. Although patients regard MiL mostly as their own quest, nurses play a modest yet important role. Managers and educators should support nurses’ investment in reciprocal nurse-patient relationships.