Nursing homes and suffering: Part of the problem or part of the solution?

Sarah Forbes-Thompson, Charles E. Gessert

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The quality of residents' life is now widely recognized as a principle measure of the quality of care provided by nursing homes. This article is focused on the profound psychosocial and existential suffering that was experienced by many of the nursing home residents who were part of a larger study that examined end-of-life experiences in nursing homes. Data were collected using a case study approach, incorporating observations, interviews, and document review. Qualitative content analysis was used to analyze data. The narratives of two residents are used as exemplars. Through these narratives, specific examples of physical, psychosocial, and existential suffering are revealed. Suffering as an essential aspect of the human condition is explored within the context of nursing homes as systems of care for older adults. Attention to suffering is integral to quality of life, yet few nursing homes have integrated the diagnosis and relief of suffering into their routine work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)234-251
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Applied Gerontology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2006

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2011 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Nursing homes
  • Resident quality of life
  • Suffering


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