Older patients’ perspectives and experience of hospitalisation during the COVID-19 pandemic: a qualitative explorative study

Dorthe Susanne Nielsen, Rikke Frøslev Hansen, Sanne Have Beck, Jette Wensien, Tahir Masud, Jesper Ryg

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Background and Objectives
The aim of this study was to gain in‐depth knowledge and an increased understanding on how isolation from close relatives and carers, during the COVID‐19 pandemic, impacted older patients during hospitalisation in a Geriatric department.

We conducted a qualitative study using semi‐structured interviews and a phenomenological‐hermeneutic approach, to get an understanding of the older participants' perspectives and lived experiences. Complete interviews were available for 11 patients—six men and five women, between 69 and 91 years of age.

The participants' narratives identified several themes. Feeling isolated from and having no contact with close relatives or carers was prominent. The COVID‐19 pandemic created fear and anxiety among hospitalized patients. Relationships with family members and some staff became strained. The transformation from being “a person” to being “a patient” and loss of dignity, autonomy and a “sense of self” were themes identified in the analysis. Although virtual contact can't replace the real world, the use of technology to maintain contact with family and carers, and the need for help from hospital staff in facilitating this contact was deemed important. The environment of care was a prominent theme. The attitude of staff made a difference to how patients felt and some patients expressed a loss of decision‐making capability. The interviews were challenging in some cases because the interviews had to be interrupted or shortened due to ethical considerations around the individual person's needs and condition.

Conclusions and implication for practice
Our study provided in‐depth knowledge on how older patients experienced hospitalisation during the COVID‐19 pandemic in a Danish hospital. The results emphasise that compassionate care includes a willingness to listen to older patients' narratives and to imagine life as depicted by them. This can lead to better understanding of an individual person's needs and increase the quality of care provided.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Older People Nursing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • COVID-19
  • geriatric
  • isolation
  • narratives
  • older patients
  • qualitative
  • vulnerability


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