Older persons and the New Zealand health system: a user perspective of service provider attitude

Simunovich, Peter Ivan
Wright-St Clair, Valerie
Kersten, Paula
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Master of Public Health
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Auckland University of Technology

The purpose of this study was to phenomenologically examine the question, “How do older New Zealanders experience the attitudes of healthcare providers?” Much literature is framed around the viewpoint of the healthcare providers’ experience, yet little is available from the perspective of the older person residing in the community. Through an interpretive phenomenological process it was possible to listen into and draw meaning from the participant’s stories and attempt to give voice to older individuals’ lived experiences of health provider attitudes. The study utilised a hermeneutic phenomenological methodology as guided by the writings of van Manen and strongly influenced by Heideggerian philosophy. Participants were recruited from the greater Auckland area through communication and placements of advertisements with Age Concern calling for volunteers. The researcher, using unstructured interviews, explored the lived experiences of six community dwelling participants over the age of 74 years. Stories were transcribed then read and re-read to reflectively reveal emerging themes. Three over arching themes became apparent: those of feeling diminished; being forgotten and being resilient. The stories were carefully analysed by reflecting phenomenologically upon the participants’ stories. Examples were drawn from the texts which illustrated the under lying meaning from both the spoken and unspoken words residing within as reflected by the researcher’s interpretive depiction. The findings uncovered a deeper understanding of how the participants experienced their healthcare providers’ attitudes. This revealed that the way in which one chose to experience life may affect one’s encounters with healthcare providers though this should not be solely relied upon to ensure a satisfactory, compassionate experience. It is suggested that the approach of health providers to older people ought to be more considered. This combined with the application of better communication skills may provide simple yet effective tools with which to help reduce the likelihood of feeling diminished or forgotten. The study recommended education for health providers likely to encounter older people in the course of their work, should look to inform and provide an understanding of the potential negative and positive effects of their attitudes towards older persons.

Older persons , New Zealand health care , Ageism , Health provider attitudes , Interpretive phenomenology , Elders experiences
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