Exploring existential loneliness among frail older people as a basis for an intervention: protocol for the development phase of the LONE study

Anna-Karin Edberg, Ingrid Bolmsjö

Forskningsoutput: TidskriftsbidragArtikelPeer review

12 Citeringar (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: International research concerning end-of-life issues emphasizes the importance of health care professionals (HCPs) being prepared to deal with existential aspects, like loneliness, in order to provide adequate care. The last phase of life is often related to losses of different kinds, which might trigger feelings of isolation in general and existential loneliness (EL) in particular. There is a large body of research concerning loneliness among older people in general, but little is known about the phenomenon and concept of EL in old age.

OBJECTIVE: This study aims to describe the framing, design, and first results of the exploratory phase of an intervention study focusing on EL among older people: the LONE study. This stage of the study corresponds to the development phase, according to the Medical Research Council framework for designing complex interventions.

METHODS: The LONE study contains both theoretical and empirical studies concerning: (1) identifying the evidence base; (2) identifying and developing theory through individual and focus group interviews with frail older people, significant others, and HCPs; and (3) modeling process and outcomes for the intervention. This project involves sensitive issues that must be carefully reviewed. The topic in itself concerns a sensitive matter and the study group is vulnerable, therefore, an ethical consciousness will be applied throughout the project.

RESULTS: The results so far show that EL means being disconnected from life and implies a feeling of being fundamentally separated from others and the world, whether or not one has family, friends, or other close acquaintances. Although significant others highlighted things such as lack of activities, not participating in a social environment, and giving up on life as aspects of EL, the older people themselves highlighted a sense of meaningless waiting, a longing for a deeper connectedness, and restricted freedom as their origins of EL. The views of HCPs on the origin of EL, the place of care, and their own role differed between contexts.

CONCLUSIONS: The studies focusing on identifying the evidence base and developing theory are published. These results will now be used to identify potential intervention components, barriers, and enablers for the implementation of an intervention aimed at supporting HCPs in encountering EL among older people.

TidskriftJMIR Research Protocols
StatusPublicerad - 2019

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