Background: Due to the growing population of older people across the world, providing safe and effective care is an increasing concern. Older persons in need for hospitalisation often have, or are susceptible to develop, cognitive impairment. Hospitals need to adapt to ensure high-quality care for this vulnerable patient group. Several age-friendly frameworks and models aiming at reducing risks and complications have been promoted. However, care for older people must be based on the persons' reported needs, and relatives are often an important part of older persons' social support. The primary aim of this study was to explore older peoples' and their relatives' experiences of acute hospitalisation and determine what is important for them to experience a good hospital stay. The study was not limited to patients with cognitive impairment; but included a wider group of older individuals vulnerable to developing delirium, with or without an underlying chronic cognitive impairment.
Methods: This study had a qualitative research design in which people aged 75 years or older and their relatives were interviewed during an acute hospitalisation. The study was conducted at two medical wards at a large university hospital in Norway, and included a total of 60 participants. All interviews were informed by a semi-structured interview guide and were thematically analysed.
Results: Four major themes were identified in the older people's and the relatives' descriptions of how they experienced the hospital stay and what was important for them during the hospital stay: being seen and valued as a person, individualised care, patient-adapted communication and information, and collaboration with relatives. The themes span both positive and negative experiences, reflecting great variability in the experiences described. The presence of these four characteristics promoted positive experiences among patients and relatives, whereas the absence or negative valuation of them promoted negative experiences.
Conclusions: The findings underscore the interrelatedness of older people and their relatives and that patients and relatives are quite consistent in their experiences and opinions. This suggests that listening to the concerns of relatives is important, as they can voice the older patient's needs and concerns in situations where older people might find it difficult to do so. Furthermore, the results underscore how 'small things' matter in relation to how health professionals capture the patient's individual values, need for care, information and involvement of relatives and that these are essential to ensure predictability and security and a good stay for older people and their relatives.
Keywords: Acute care; Acute hospitalisation; Age-friendly hospital; Cognitive impairment; Family involvement; Older people; Patient experiences.
© 2022. The Author(s).