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Journal Article

Ethnographic study of a good death among elderly Japanese Americans

Most humans desire a good death, but the nursing literature on culture-specific responses to older life, especially on issues of death and dying among Japanese Americans, is still limited. The pattern of beliefs about a good death held by elderly Japanese Americans living in Hawaii was explored. A qualitative study using ethnography and in-depth interviewing was employed. Eighteen healthy and active elderly participants were interviewed, and data analyzed using ethnography to extract categories and themes, and four supplementary interviews with experts were held for triangulation of the data. Four themes emerged, however, in this paper, the predominate one, not being a burden to family, was discussed. The participants believed burdening someone in their culture has an extremely negative implication. Sufficient preparation for older life and death, family support, friends support, and finance were their strategies to avoid being a burden. Nurses need to understand that the concept of good death is unique to every culture. Such knowledge will help them to plan and provide appropriate end-of-life care, and will reduce the risk of living wills being ignored.

K. Hattori
D.N. Ishida
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