Individual care of older people in assisted living is care in which the residents’ personality, needs and wishes are acknowledged. This is a study of the relationship between architectural space and the individual care the staff provides.
Methods and materials
This is a ten months ethnographic study in an assisted living facility in Sweden. Observations and individual interviews with staff as well as residents were the main data collection methods. Analysis was done with a grounded theory approach.
The spatial structure allowed few possibilities to the resident to express their individuality. All residents had similar private rooms which they furnished with their own furniture and assets. These assets were important tools to the staff to make acquaintance with the residents in order to give individual care. Residents stayed most of the time in their private rooms which they indicated as most important for their privacy. However, this is the space where they are most public in the sense that they are exposed to its outmost by intimate care. The staff used a number of spatial micro-strategies to help residents who were uncomfortable by this exposure. The public spaces were mostly frequented by the residents at the meals. The staff constantly rearranged the furniture in the dining-room in order to meet the wishes and needs of various residents so that they would attend the meals. Staff did not interfere with the residents’ use of space according to their own wishes, not even for security reasons. Residents moved freely in the facility.
The spatial possibilities for individual care in assisted living are limited to the architectural micro level. This is, nevertheless, of great importance to the support of the individual since neither the private rooms nor the public spaces fully reflect or accommodate the individuality of the residents.