Journal of Professional Nursing

The Challenge of Feeling ‘At Home’ in Residential Aged Care in New Zealand 

Marian Bland, RN, PhD Associate Professor (Nursing), School of Nursing, UCOL, Palmerston North

Reference:  Bland, M. (2005). The challenge of feeling ‘at home’ in residential aged care in New Zealand. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 21(3), 4-12. 


Approximately 30,000 older adults live in residential aged care (nursing homes) in New Zealand, but little has been known of life in these homes, except for occasional and often sensational news reports. Advertisements for nursing homes however portray a world that is a ‘home away from home’, promising prospective residents individualised care and comfort. The reality is somewhat different, as the stories of residents who participated in a recent critical ethnography of three New Zealand nursing homes demonstrate. In this research report, one of those residents reveals the challenges associated with firstly becoming a nursing home resident, and then trying to establish a new sense of ‘home’. The story supports a conclusion that nurses’ knowledge of the unique ‘admission story’ of each resident, and their individual understandings of home, is essential in promoting their ongoing comfort.  

Nursing homes, resident experience, critical ethnography, New Zealand

Over recent years nursing homes in New Zealand have become increasingly visible. Homes used to be discreetly hidden away in quiet suburban streets, but the location, size and upmarket appearance of newer facilities makes them difficult to overlook. Aggressive marketing campaigns indicate the competitive nature of this industry, with nursing home proprietors even resorting to radio and cinema advertising in their efforts to increase market share. Despite this higher profile, the lives of the approximately 30,000 New Zealanders (Ministry of Health, 2000) who live in these facilities remain relatively hidden from view. Occasionally news reports offer a disturbing glimpse of what life in this world may be like:  What the video camera saw at the Christchurch rest home was unequivocal. The caregiver pulled a man out of bed roughly, twisting his ear and slapping him on the leg. Later, he put the man in a headlock, punching and slapping him and shoving the pillow that the dementia patient had thrown to the floor hard in to his face. (Aldridge, 2002, p. 11). Similar reports of abuse and neglect (for example, Andrew, 2004; Katterns, 2005; Macdonald, 2004a, 2004b) challenge the soothing texts and fulsome images of nursing home advertisements, and their promises of a ‘home away from home’. … cont

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