Nursing home caregivers' explanations for and coping strategies with residents' aggression: a qualitative study

A. Zeller*, T. Dassen, G.J. Kok, I. Needham, R.J.G. Halfens

*Corresponding author for this work

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Aims and objectives. This study explored caregivers' perspectives regarding the conditions and situations of resident aggression and practical strategies caregivers use to deal with aggression.

Background. Working in a nursing home is associated with a high risk to experience aggression from residents or patients. Despite existing recommendations for dealing with aggression there is a lack of information about caregivers' ways of dealing with it in practice.

Design. A qualitative study with focus group method was conducted.

Method. Five focus group interviews, with a total of 30 participants, from nursing homes in Switzerland were undertaken employing a semi-structured interview guideline. For analysing the data, qualitative content analysis was employed.

Results. Analysis of the data produced three themes with additional sub-themes. One main theme concerns the explanations of the caregivers in regard to the occurrence of aggressive behaviour. This theme is subdivided into two areas, the contributory resident related factors and the caregiver related factors. The measures for handling aggressive behaviour are illustrated in the second theme 'dealing with residents'. The third theme refers to the strategies of the caregivers when confronted with aggressive behaviour - 'self-protection' and 'coping with the situation'.

Conclusion. Caregivers use a broad spectrum of interventions for reducing aggression, some of which are recommended by guidelines but often ignore the link between aggressive behaviour and physiological issues like pain or elimination. The caregivers only very rarely linked their practical knowledge about aggressive behaviour with theoretical knowledge.

Relevance to clinical practice. The results give insight into the caregivers' perspectives on factors leading to aggression and their coping strategies. Caregivers are informed about relevant reasons for aggressive behaviour and its management, but do not apply a systematic approach. Furthermore, the anxiety of caregivers involved in aggression incidents is an under examined area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2469-2478
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number17-18
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011


  • aggressive behaviour
  • nurses
  • nursing homes
  • qualitative approach
  • residents
  • CARE

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