BACKGROUND: As more people reach older age, there is a growing interest in improving old person's health, activity, independence and social participation, thereby adding quality to the extended years. Preventive home visits (PHV) programs for old people have received much attention in recent decades. A large body of research shows mixed effects, and argues that a home visit is a complex social process influenced by numerous factors. To evaluate the impact of PHV, as well as making decisions on whether, how, and to whom the service should be provided, requires a deeper understanding of PHV than we have now. Consequently, the aim of the study was to describe the variations in older people's (80+) experiences of a single preventive home visit and its consequences for health.
METHODS: Seventeen participants between 80 and 92 years of age who had all received a structured PHV were interviewed in their own homes. The interviews were analyzed using the phenomenographic method, looking at the variations in the participants' experiences.
RESULTS: The interviews revealed four categories: "The PHV made me visible and proved my human value"; "The PHV brought a feeling of security"; "The PHV gave an incentive to action"; and "The PHV was not for me".
CONCLUSIONS: The experiences of a PHV were twofold. On one hand, the positive experiences indicate that one structured PHV was able to empower the participants and strengthen their self-esteem, making them feel in control over their situation and more aware of the importance of keeping several steps ahead. Together this could motivate them to take measures and engage in health-promoting activities. On the other hand, the PHV was experienced as being of no value by a few. These findings may partly explain the positive results from PHV interventions and emphasize that one challenge for health care professionals is to motivate older people who are healthy and independent to engage in health-promoting and disease-preventive activities.
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