Uncertainty and Alternate Level of Care: A Narrative Study of the Older Patient and Family Caregiver Experience

Greg Cressman, Jenny Ploeg, Helen Kirkpatrick, Sharon Kaasalainen, Carrie McAiney


Older adults in Canada who have multiple illnesses and are awaiting placement in long-term care are greatly impacted by alternate level of care (ALC). The purpose of this narrative study was to record the experiences of hospitalized older adults and their family caregivers after the patient is designated as requiring ALC. The researchers conducted 21 interviews with 5 older patients and 4 of their family caregivers. The interviews were transformed into stories summarizing the participants' experiences and analyzed for common themes. An overall finding was that uncertainty is integral to the experience of ALC as expressed under 3 themes: I never thought I'd end up like this, I don't know, and waiting. To improve the ALC experience, comprehensive strategies should be developed at the individual, organizational, and structural level to better manage uncertainty while seeking to reduce the occurrence of ALC among older patients.

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