Active ageing, emotional care and the threat of stigma: Identity management in older adults using sleeping medication long-term
© The Author(s) 2018.
Amid fears about the medicalization of old age, the high prevalence of sleeping medication use in older cohorts is a significant public health concern. Long-term use is associated with a plethora of negative effects, such as cognitive impairment and risk of addiction. However, little is known about the lived experience of older adults using sleeping medication longer term. Episodic interviews lasting approximately 90 minutes were conducted with 15 independently living adults, aged 65-88, who were using sedative-hypnotic or tricyclic sleeping medication for over 11 years on average. Thematic analysis shows that participants divided their rationale for use into two temporal periods: 1) to ensure physical ability in the daytime and 2) to ensure emotional stability at night. Long-term sleeping medication was thus characterized as a form of ‘emotional self-management’ of the negative emotions associated with later life, blotting out feelings of loss and loneliness by inducing sleep. Participants feared loss of access to their medication ‘supply’, employing strategies to ensure its continuity, whilst expressing shame about their dependence. However identity management, in the form of explanations, minimizations and social comparisons, functioned to downplay their addiction. Through this, long-term sleeping medication users were able to elude the spoiled identities and multiple stigma of both the ‘out of control’ addict and the unsuccessful older adult by asserting a positive identity; that of the ‘new’ older adult, actively medicating for success both day and night.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from SAGE Publications via the DOI in this record.
Published online 08 March 2018.