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Ethnographic Research Essay

The focus of my study is the interactions inside a nursing home environment. I observed the social interactions between the elders and nurses, elders and family, and elders among other elders. The reason why I decided to study this particular group of people was primarily because my grandma currently resides in a nursing home. I also wanted to observe how elders keep up with relationships and social interactions when living in a nursing home. Although my grandma was at the nursing home where I did my observations, I did not observe her as a subject.

The building I did my observations in was called the Johnson Center. It was a two-floor, dark and light brown building. The entrance on the outside of the Johnson Center was inviting, but once I went inside, there was a sadness that overcame my mood. There was also this distinctive scent, like mixed meatloaf and hand sanitizer, which attached itself in my nose during the entirety of my observations. The area I did my observations was located on the second floor, directly in the middle of the floor. There were five halls that lead from the dining room to the bedrooms of the residents, and to an “activity room” and the “living room,” which had couches, a TV, two parrots in a cage, and access to the outside patio area. But, the dining room area was the main focus of study of my observations.

The dining room area was about the size of the classroom we hold class in. It had a tall ceiling with many windows that let in some natural sunlight. There was a black piano, which is where I sat when I did my observations. A clear windowed office filled the side of the dining room. The tables in this dining room were set up with white table cloths, red napkins, coffee cups and utensils. When lunch came out, the trays took over the majority of space left on the table. Some tables were completed with chairs, while other tables weren’t, since the elders in wheel chairs occupied that space. The noise level was at a low-medium during my observations. It only got noisy when the utensils hit the plates, or when small chats among the elders, nurses and families occurred. The environment was comforting, with a hint of sadness and despair.

“Creating the conditions for self-fulfillment for aged care residents,” by Sonya Brownie and Louise Horstmanshof, shows a study that measured how 27 residents in a high-care facility in Ohio spent their day. Unbelievably, there was only 4% of the time dedicated to organized activities, while 25% was spend in the dining room, and 9% was eating. I think this article is the most relevant and important to my research because it describes exactly what I observed, the dining room, which was where the elderly spend most of their day. This article also explains the importance of relationships, the importance of maintaining relationships and the effects of relationship deprivation.

The article states that “deprivation of meaningful relationships and social engagement adversely effects the physical and emotional well-being of older people, leads to feelings of isolation and loneliness,” which I saw when I observed the elders’ social interactions. I observed that lack of social interactions effect the way certain elders behave or react in the nursing home, and almost every elder showed some sign of depression or sadness. It is true to my observation on the interactions between elders and other elders, in which elders isolate themselves from the group, and thus respond back with hostile behavior towards one another. Without social interactions, the elders create a sense of loneliness and depression, and their personal identity, self-esteem and personal control are all shaken.

The article, “Families and Elder Care in the 21st Century,” by Ann Bookman and Delia Kimbrel, studied the importance of finding nurses who have the ability to understand each elder and how to adapt to their behavior, as well as the significance of nurses of color in comparison to the Caucasian elders. “Although most Americans refrain from putting their elderly kin in nursing homes, Latinos, African Americans, and Asians are least likely to do so. Even elders of color with greater care needs, such as those afflicted with dementia or chronic illnesses, are more likely than whites to receive care from their children and live in the community with them.” This statement describes the reasoning as to why the elder population in this nursing home is predominately Caucasian. It is because in Latino, African American and Asian cultures have their elderly live with their children.

Gerritsen, Steverink, Ooms and Ribbel are the authors of “Finding a useful conceptual basis for enhancing the quality of life of nursing home residents,” which describes the quality of life, what the quality of life is and how it should optimized. It also describes what the factors in the social integration. This is the most important part of the article because it highlights exactly what factors are needed in order to improve on the elderly’s wellbeing and what needs are needed within the nursing home. First is social integration needs, which includes the factors of growth needs, self-esteem needs, as well as love and belonging needs. The second is material resource needs, which includes safety and security needs, and physiological needs. Every one of these needs is necessary in creating an environment dedicated to the needs of the elders. This will enhance their quality of life and thus “be dependent on the degree to which they are able, with assistance, to meet those needs.”

The last article I found that related most to my research is called, “Nursing home residents’ dependence and independence.” The focus of this article is the observation of the pattern of social interaction between nursing home resident and the nursing staff during mealtimes. This was very similar to my observations on the elders in the nursing. In fact, the results were almost the same, as well. The study showed that residents were rarely socially active, which is true for my observations. Stated in the conclusion of the article, “the response of the nursing staff to the residents’ social engagement was variable…however, they did not respond at all and seldom displayed engagement-supportive behavior.” This statement holds true to my observations on the elderly and nurses as well. Although, I only studied a total of 5 nurses, the nurses’ response to the elders definitely varied, but almost every time, the nurses did not engage with the elders, unless they had a specific duty.

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