Struggling to retain living space: patients' stories about living with advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

J Adv Nurs. 2011 Jul;67(7):1480-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2010.05604.x. Epub 2011 Mar 6.


Aim: This paper is a report of a study of the experience of living with advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and long-term oxygen therapy when living alone.

Background: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease affects an increasing number of people. Breathlessness, fatigue and dejection are common symptoms during the last years of life.

Method: Repeated qualitative interviews with four participants were conducted over an 8-month period in 2008. The data comprised 17 interviews, 15 telephone conversations and various field notes. A phenomenological hermeneutical method was used to interpret the text.

Findings: The analysis resulted in two main themes and five sub-themes. The first main theme, Being subordinated to the sick body, implies that the body, assistive devices and entrusting oneself to the hands of others can both extend and restrict the living space. The second main theme, Protecting significant values of identity, encompasses both the struggle to maintain self-image and the awareness of one's own death.

Conclusion: Living alone with advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a challenging and complex phenomenon. The everyday life was characterized by a struggle to keep autonomy during a time of increasing dependency and need for help. A person-centred nursing care, built upon peoples' own experiences, may be one way to promote identity and dignity in patients even when they are close to death.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Dyspnea / psychology
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Home Care Services / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy / adverse effects
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy / psychology
  • Palliative Care
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / psychology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / therapy
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life
  • Self Concept
  • Social Isolation / psychology*
  • Sweden
  • Wheelchairs / psychology