A long way to Tipperary? Young people with complex health conditions living in residential aged care: A metaphorical map for understanding the call for change
There is ongoing public and private concern regarding the appropriateness of young people with complex health needs residing in nursing homes and the search for alternative living environments. Despite the demand for change, there is only tacit understanding of the key motivations behind this call for change and even less in the way of coherent arguments underlying the need for alternative solutions. The study aimed to explore the assumed truths that have formed around this topic in recent years and to reposition ambitious but ambiguous arguments regarding the need to relocate younger people from aged care facilities. By applying the method of systematic metaphor analysis, the authors conducted a review of social discourse (i.e. media corpus of 904 published articles dated 2001-2009). A conceptual media map was developed to document the process of social change around this topic. Additionally, the narrative described five metaphors that outlined the experience of aged care residential homes for young people with complex health conditions, namely 'captivity', 'commodity', 'battlelines', 'fragmentation' and 'a contemporary life'. These metaphors reflected the fears and hopes held by young people and their families. Results indicate that young people at risk of nursing home placement are confronted with a range of distinct and complex personal dilemmas which ought to be resolved through initiatives purported to offer 'more appropriate' residential options. We conclude that principles of good quality care are in danger of becoming misplaced within over-simplified interpretations of the needs of young people with complex conditions. Alignment of disability and rehabilitation policy with residential care practice will allow for more informed decisions about long-term care needs of young people, leading to quality outcomes.