Elders adapting to a Chronic Diagnosis within a Nursing Refuge

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2012


The increasing numbers of people seeking care for chronic disease has placed unparalleled demands on nurses who journey with them as they grasp the meaning of their altered health status. The complexity of the newly diagnosed chronic disease can be overwhelming. Newly diagnosed elder patients need a refuge in which to explore the uncertainties and challenges in managing a chronic illness. Reactions to a new diagnosis are uniquely shaped by the elder person's culture, age, life circumstances, and previous coping strategies. Six dichotomous response pairs are posed: relief versus devastation, courage versus cowardice, disease obsession versus disease aversion, rational thinking versus intuition, reawakening versus stuck, and self-reliance versus dependence. Nurses can create a sanctuary for elderly patients with protected space, presence, partnership, past to future orientation, and perspective on life. Nurses who embrace this mission may find themselves returning to the reasons they sought a nursing career, to support and strengthen elderly people in the most vulnerable moments of their lives