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Journal of Aging Research
Volume 2011, Article ID 390427, 7 pages
Research Article

Faith and End of Life in Nursing Homes

1Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Public Policy Building, 1000 Hilltop Circle, Room 214, Baltimore, MD 21250, USA
2Behavioral Research Institute, Arcadia University, 450 S. Easton Road, Glenside, PA 19138, USA
3Doctoral Program in Gerontology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Public Policy Building, 1000 Hilltop Circle, 2nd Floor, Baltimore, MD 21250, USA

Received 7 March 2011; Accepted 16 March 2011

Academic Editor: Laraine Winter

Copyright © 2011 Robert L. Rubinstein et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This paper explores the role of religious belief in the experiences of dying and death in a Catholic nursing home. The home appeals to residents and their families due to the active religious presence. Thus, religion is a salient element of the “local culture” which exists in this long-term care setting. The preeminence of faith within the organization and the personal religious convictions of staff, residents, and families may drive how death and dying are discussed and experienced in this setting, as well as the meanings that are attached to them. This paper examines the relationship between faith and the experience and meaning of death in this nursing home. We present themes that emerged from open-ended interviews with residents, family members, and staff, gathered between 1996 and 2004. The data indicate that people select the home due to their Catholic faith and the home's religious tone. Themes also show that belief in God and an afterlife helps shape the experience of dying and death for our informants. Our paper does not compare ease of dying with other nursing homes or within other belief systems.