The main aim of this study was to explore the immediate needs of the relatives of acutely ill older people during hospitalisation. The research question posed was: ‘What are the immediate needs of the relatives of acutely ill older people in the hospital setting?’
A descriptive qualitative approach was utilized, with ethnographic data collection methods and thematic data analysis. Unstructured interviews were conducted with relatives of older people who were admitted for acute care. The setting for the study included two large tertiary referral hospitals located in two area health services in New South Wales, Australia.
Analysis of data revealed two themes: being informed and being there. Being informed describes the nature of the information that relatives need and why this is so important to them. Being there illustrates how relatives perceive their roles and responsibility during hospitalisation. It highlights the importance of this and the impact it has on individuals
The findings highlight the importance of appreciating the family’s experiences in relation to the care of their older family member. They point to the need for education of stakeholders to focus on relatives as well as the older patient, improved assessment incorporating a whole of family approach on admission to hospital, and finally, facilitating positive relationships between ward staff and families.