Background: The treatment of depression in Australian aged psychiatry units has been found to be effective in terms of symptom improvement and readmission rates. There is little information, however, about how such hospitalization is viewed by the patients themselves. While users' views are increasingly seen as important for the evaluation of mental health services and for improving outcomes, the views of older patients are less likely to be sought. In this study, former patients were asked about their experience of admission, which aspects were helpful and which were not. Negative experiences have been described in an earlier paper. This paper focuses on what study participants considered to be the positive aspects of their time in hospital.
Methods: Fifty former patients from three Melbourne hospitals were interviewed in their own homes using a semi-structured, open-ended questionnaire.
Results: Forty-six percent expressed an overall favorable view of their hospital stay; 34% had some reservations; and 20% had a poor overall view. Favorable views did not necessarily preclude distressing incidents or complaints but were associated with the ward environment, experienced as a safe haven; the re-evaluation of negative experiences; and, in most but not all cases, recovery.
Conclusions: Retrospective accounts are useful for understanding the ways in which hospital experience is processed. Remembering the experience as positive is, in itself, a good therapeutic outcome. In addition, it may influence readiness to seek future treatment, help prevent relapse, and, indirectly, be helpful to others with similar problems.