'He just gave up': an exploratory study into the perspectives of paid carers on supporting older people living in care homes with depression, self-harm, and suicide ideation and behaviours

Trish Hafford-Letchfield, Helen Gleeson, Peter Ryan, Barbara Billings, Ruth Teacher, Matthew Quaife, Ann Flynn, Stefano Zanone Poma, Silvia Vincentini

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This study explored the concept of ‘giving up’ from the perspective of care staff working in care homes, and their everyday communication and hidden knowledge concerning what they think about this taboo topic and the context it reflects. Moving to a care home is a major transition where cumulative losses can pose risks to mental health in later life. If not recognised, this vulnerability can lead to depression which extends to suicide ideation and behaviours in the form of self-harm and self-neglect. Care homes are a significant place of care until death, yet a discourse of silence means that self-harm and suicide is under-reported or not attended to with specialist expertise. The layperson's concept of an older person ‘giving up’ on life is hardly discussed in the literature. This co-produced qualitative study used an inductive approach to explore this phenomenon through focus groups with 33 care staff across four care homes in South-East England. Findings paint a complex picture, highlighting tensions in providing the right support and creating spaces to respond to such challenging situations. ‘Giving up’ requires skilled detailed assessment to respond to risks alongside improved training and support for paid carers, to achieve a more holistic strategy which capitalises on significant relationships within a wider context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)984-1003
Number of pages20
JournalAgeing and Society
Issue number5
Early online date16 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


  • ageing
  • older people
  • care home
  • mental health
  • suicide ideation
  • suicide behaviours
  • social care

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