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Discursive Meaning of Hope for Older Persons with Advanced Cancer and their Caregivers*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 August 2010

Wendy Duggleby*
University of Alberta
Lorraine Holtslander
University of Saskatchewan
Megan Steeves
University of Saskatchewan
Shanda Duggleby-Wenzel
Speech Language Pathologist, Edmonton
Shannon Cunningham
University of Guelph
Correspondence and requests for offprints should be sent to / La correspondance et les demandes de tirés-à-part doivent être adressées à: Wendy Duggleby, Ph.D., Nursing Research Chair Aging and Quality of Life, Faculty of Nursing University of Alberta, 3rd Floor Clinical Sciences Building, Edmonton, AB T6G 2G3 (


This study used van Dijk’s critical-discourse approach to explore the current societal discourse on hope and to explore the hope of older terminally ill cancer patients, their significant others and primary nurse. Forty-three newspaper articles dealing with hope and cancer were collected and analyzed to explore how hope is socially constructed by print media. Individual face-to-face, qualitative, open-ended interviews were conducted with three triads, each consisting of an older palliative cancer patient, a significant other, and a primary nurse. The predominant discourse of hope and cancer in the newspaper articles was considered ageist, conveying the message that only one legitimate hope existed for persons with cancer: hope for a cure. The study findings suggested that this message caused confusion and distress for the patients, significant others, and their primary nurses because their own discourses of hope were focused on comfort, peace, and maintaining relationships at the end of life.


Cette étude a utilisé l’approche du discours critique de van Dijik afin d’explorer le discours sociétaux actuel sur l’espoir, et d’explorer l’espoir des patients agées avec cancer terminale, leurs soignants et leurs infirmières primaires. Quarante-trois articles de presse traitant de l’espoir et de cancer ont été recueillies et analysées pour explorer comment l’espoir est socialement construite par les médias de presse. Des entrevues individuelles de face à face, qualitatives et ouvertes ont été menées avec trois triades, constitués d’un patient de cancer palliatif âgé, un conjoint, et une infirmière primaire. Le discours prédominant de l’espoir et de cancer dans les articles de presse a été considérée comme discriminatoire à raison de l’âge; il a transmit le message que le seul espoir légitime qui existe pour les personnes atteintes d’un cancer est d’espérer un remède. Ce message a causé de la confusion et de la détresse pour les patients, leurs conjoints, et leur infirmières primaires, étant donné que leurs propre discours d’espoir ont été axés sur le confort, la paix et le maintien des relations à la fin de vie.

Special SEDAP Section: Canada’s Vulnerable Older Populations / Section spéciale SEDAP: Les Populations âgées vulnérables du Canada: Articles
Copyright © Canadian Association on Gerontology 2010

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This study was supported by a grant from the University of Saskatchewan President’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant SSHR We thank Laurie Roy and Sunrise Health Region patients, families, and staff for facilitating this study.


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