Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Dr. Elizabeth Anne Kinsella


There is limited understanding of what occupation at end-of-life entails. Terminally ill individuals have articulated the inability to engage in activities that make life enjoyable as a factor influencing their decision to hasten death. Given the growing demographic of aging Canadians in need of end-of-life support, research that considers the potential for occupation to facilitate meaningful end-of-life experiences is pressing. The purpose of this work was to examine the embodied nature of occupation at end-of-life, from the perspectives of Canadians 60 years of age or older and diagnosed with a terminal illness. A phenomenological methodology was used. Data collection included semi-structured interviews with eight participants, participative observation, embodied methods, and reflective journaling. Data analysis involved a hermeneutic process utilizing processes of detailed, selective and holistic analysis. This work is comprised of four integrated manuscripts that contribute to this broad purpose. The first investigates what has been published about occupation and end-of-life through a review of the literature. The second investigates phenomenology as a methodological approach for the study of human occupation. The third examines the embodied nature of occupation at end-of-life, and discusses six emergent themes: living with death, reworking everyday life, being guided by the will of the body, focusing on relationships, attending to the small things, and existential orientations. The final manuscript explores what embodied phenomenological approaches offer qualitative research practices. This work contributes to knowledge about occupation at end-of-life and calls for care practices that are attentive to the lived dimensions of occupation in this life stage.