Social Support in Elderly Nursing Home Populations: Manifestations and Sociopolitical and Economic Influences


Nursing home patients; social networks among nursing home patients; social networks among older people


Repeatedly, researchers have reported on the health benefits resulting from social support (Cohen-Mansfield, 2000; Lee, 1985; & Siebert & Mutran, 1999). Despite this testimony, social support eludes a clear definition and has been predicted to decline with debility and aging. Additionally, institutionalization and medicalization may potentiate this decline. The purpose of this qualitative study was to describe the characteristics of social support, and the influencing factors of social support in a nursing home environment.

The settings for this research were two central Florida nursing homes that differed according to the diversity of their populations. Observations and staff questionnaires were analyzed in order to answer the following research questions: (a) How is social support manifested in elderly nursing home populations? (b) How do staff behaviors influence social support among elderly nursing home residents? (c) How do nursing home policies influence social support among elderly nursing home residents? (d) How do economic differences influence social support among elderly nursing home populations?

Collected data from observations, and questionnaires, were sorted and coded according to emerging patterns and themes. The analysis of these data contributed to answers to the research questions.

Manifestations of social support within this environ were very limited. Residents exchanged greetings, occasionally looked after their roommates' needs, or assisted them down a hall in a wheelchair. Although infrequently observed, reciprocal resident tasks appeared to have significant resident value. Staff behaviors and facility policies appeared to be determined by governmental mandates and resulted in resident dependency. Economic differences appeared to be essentially aesthetic and had limited impact on residents and social support. The exception was the impact that economics seemed to have on resident demographics and levels of cognition. A greater health care provider understanding of the manifestations of social support and the sociopolitical and economic influences of social support in elderly nursing home populations can positively impact future policy, education, and the lives of elderly individuals.


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Graduation Date





Kysilka, Marcella


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Education


Educational Studies




208 p.



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Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)




Dissertations, Academic -- Education; Education -- Dissertations, Academic

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