From Coping with Life to Coping with Death: Problematic Integration for the Seriously Ill Elderly

Stephen C. Hines, Austin S. Babrow, Laurie Badzek, Alvin Moss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Decisions made by and for elderly patients nearing death frequently perpetuate unwanted suffering and dependence. This article extends the argument that Babrow's (1992, 1995) problematic integration theory can provide insights into why communication fails to produce desired outcomes for such patients. Open-ended responses obtained in face-to-face interviews with 142 elderly dialysis patients and mailed surveys of 393 dialysis unit nurses were examined to better understand how patients and nurses reconciled incompatible probabilistic and evaluative judgments. Results indicate that patients seek information that will enable them to cope with debilitating dialysis treatments rather than information nurses believe is necessary for them to make informed choices about whether to undergo such treatments. The tension between the information patients want to successfully cope with life and the information they need to decide intelligently about treatments that forestall death constitutes a key reason why communication about end-of-life issues is frequently flawed. Our analysis of these communication flaws leads to specific recommendations for how this tension can be eased, which in turn may better prepare patients to make the transition from coping with life to coping with death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-342
Number of pages16
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication


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