Mind frames towards dying and factors motivating their adoption by terminally ill elders

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2006 May;61(3):S129-39. doi: 10.1093/geronb/61.3.s129.


Objective: This study was designed to advance the understanding of the physical and psychosocial factors that motivate terminally ill elders not only to consider a hastened death but also not to consider such a death.

Methods: I conducted face-to-face in-depth qualitative interviews with 96 terminally ill elders. An inductive approach was taken to locating themes and patterns regarding factors motivating terminally ill elders to consider or not to consider hastening death.

Result: Six mind frames towards dying emerged: (a) neither ready nor accepting; (b) not ready but accepting; (c) ready and accepting; (d) ready, accepting, and wishing death would come; (e) considering a hastened death but having no specific plan; and (f) considering a hastened death with a specific plan. From the data emerged approaches towards dying and accompanying emotions characterizing each mind frame, as well as factors motivating their adoption by elders. The results showed that psychosocial factors served more often than physical factors as motivators.

Discussion: The results demonstrate the importance of assessing the mind frame adopted by a terminally ill elder and his or her level of satisfaction with it. Terminally ill elders may experience a higher quality dying process when a traditional medical care approach is replaced by a holistic approach that addresses physical, spiritual, emotional, and social needs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Culture
  • Defense Mechanisms
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Holistic Health
  • Hospice Care / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Palliative Care / psychology
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Sick Role
  • Social Support*
  • Suicide, Assisted / psychology*
  • Terminal Care / psychology*