Original Research

Perceptions of effective relationships in an institutional care setting for older people

Vera Roos, Frans Du Toit
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 40, No 1 | a1139 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v40i1.1139 | © 2014 Vera Roos, Frans Du Toit | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 April 2013 | Published: 24 October 2014

About the author(s)

Vera Roos, Africa Unit for Transdisciplinary Health Research, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa
Frans Du Toit, Africa Unit for Transdisciplinary Health Research, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa


Orientation: The relocation of older people to residential facilities has implications for their relationships.

Research purpose: This article reports older residents’ perceptions of effective relationships.

Motivation for the study: Effective relationships protect against loneliness and depression and contribute to well-being. The facility was identified by a social worker as a showcase for effective relationships, but it was not clear what these consist of.

Research approach, design and method: The World Café, a qualitative, participatory action research method, was applied to an economically deprived, urban facility caring for older people in Gauteng, South Africa. Three positively framed questions elicited perceptions from participants (nine men, ten women, aged 65–89). Visual and textual data were obtained and thematically analysed until saturation had been achieved. Themes were then subjected to deductive direct content analysis in terms of Self-Interactional Group Theory (SIGT).

Main findings: Older residents perceive care managers as friendly and trustworthy and co-residents as caring. Care managers were seen as flexible, empathetic and congruent leaders and they confirmed residents. Relationships between residents were parallel-defined with relational qualities such as empathy and unconditional acceptance. Residents’ needs for privacy were honoured and they felt confirmed. Group dynamics were underpinned by caring and a stimulating environment provided opportunities for engagement.

Practical/managerial implications: Relationships between managers and consumers are facilitated by flexibility, empathy, congruence and unconditional acceptance. Supportive group dynamics develop when people confirm and accept one another. A stimulating environment that encourages continuous and close interpersonal contact contributes to effective relationships.

Contribution/value-add: Effective relationships should be understood on different levels.


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