Ageing well :mobile ICT as a tool for empowerment of elderly people in home health care and rehabilitation

by Melander-Wikman, Anita, PhD

Abstract (Summary)
The ageing of Europe's population is a crucial challenge for the 21st century. Today, the mean life expectancy in Sweden is 83 years for women and 78 for men. Ageing well is a frequently used process, describing the objectives of future elderly care and rehabilitation. Enabling elderly people to live longer and independently in their homes is one goal for society as a whole. Providing health care of high quality, on equal terms for all citizens, is an important political goal in Sweden. It is a great challenge for providers to achieve elderly care of high quality and to develop products, services and technologies that meet the needs of elderly people. There is an assumption that Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) will enhance quality of life. Additionally "electronic accessibility" is one of the goals for the European Information Society to support and enable self-determination and mobility. Dimensions of empowerment such as participation and ability to influence/control one's life situation imply an approach to health care with the patient/client in focus. The aim of this thesis was to explore different dimensions of empowerment and an empowerment methodology for elderly persons in home health care, and if ICT was a useful tool in this process. A multi-method approach was used that included interviews with patients with experience of rehabilitation, interviews with elderly persons with homecare and safety alarms, exploring their needs in relation to empowerment dimensions such as autonomy, self-determination, participation and mobility, an intervention where a mobile safety alarm was tested by elderly individuals and reflective learning workshops with front line staff in home care. Different methods of analysis were used, including Grounded Theory, Latent Content analysis and Constructivist Grounded Theory together with reflections. One of the overall findings was that all patients/clients that participated in these studies had not reflected upon whether it would be possible or not, to influence care and rehabilitation. The results indicate low patient participation in and influence on, the rehabilitation process. Elderly people perceived freedom of movement as a prerequisite for participation and in one of the studies the elderly participants felt that they could influence care and be participating in one aspect, but they still wanted more support with, for example, being more physically active, like walking out doors. The overall findings show a genuine patient/client desire, but limited possibilities to influence care and rehabilitation. Put another way, patients/clients want to have influence and participate authentically, but they do not exactly know how to achieve this. All patients/clients were positive towards the professionals in care and rehabilitation. They were really grateful and admired the professionals and also identified themselves with how stressed and how overloaded with work the professionals were. This might mean that the concept interdependency is looked upon as more important than real autonomy. The patients/clients tried to be compliant and this can be understood as "learning unpretentiousness". After reflecting upon their situation they were more able to articulate their needs that were not responded to or taken care of. When ICT, as an empowering tool, was implemented, findings showed that elderly people experienced the use of a mobile safety alarm as empowering. The mobile safety alarm gave them the freedom of movement needed to be physically active and still feel safe. The positioning device was not experienced as a threat to their integrity. Mobility and safety were experienced as more important than privacy. The research findings indicate that in order to improve home health care services from the patient's/client's perspective, we need to work with the triads of participation, empowerment and mobile Information and Communication Technology. We need to critically and creatively reflect on what clients say and then try to respond positively to what we learn and shift the focus away from ‘what's life like?' and ‘what should life be like?', towards the explicit action question, ‘what needs to be done to make life as good as it can be?' Real improvement is more likely to be sustained with some changes in accountability.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Luleå tekniska universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation



Date of Publication:01/01/2008

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