To describe and explore experiences of next of kin during the older persons' transition into long-term care.
Moving into long-term care is a challenge for both resident and next of kin. Next of kin experience transitions at the same time as they play significant parts in their family members' transition into long-term care placement.
Constructivist hermeneutical design.
Ten next of kin to newly admitted eight residents were recruited by purposeful sampling and interviewed. Periodic participant observation periods following new residents on arrival day and the first week after admission and some written documentation were the backdrops to the interviews.
What happened prior to the long-term care placement as well as what happened in the initial period of transition influenced the experiences of next of kin. Characteristics of their experiences were: 'striving to handle the new situation', 'still feeling responsible', and 'maintaining dignity and continuity'.
Next of kin were unprepared for the transition and had little support from staff. Staff lacked awareness about next of kin's transition experiences. Their involvement with next of kin was unpredictable, and this added to the burdens of next of kin in this period.
Knowledge about experiences of next of kin needs to be acknowledged among healthcare professionals. Health professionals need to pay attention to what happens across institutional borders within families as well as between staff and family members. Individual family members need support in this period of change.