'They come here to tangle': an ethnographic study of relationships of people with dementia - PhDData

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‘They come here to tangle’: an ethnographic study of relationships of people with dementia

The thesis was published by McColgan, Gillian Margaret, in September 2022, University of Stirling.


This is a sociological ethnography of nine people with dementia living in a
private nursing home in central Scotland. It seeks to find an alternative way to view people in this situation, in a field that has been dominated by the medical modeL. By placing the people before the disease of dementia, they can be studied within the same framework as any people. For this
study this framework is everyday life sociology with a focus on symbolic interactionism, ethnomethodology and dramaturgy. Additionally, by gaining
the subjective perspective, we can get close to understanding meaning for
these people. The ethnographic methods I use consist of participant observation and interviews. For analysis I employ NUDIST to structure the data and the thesis. The settng, Lavender Wing of Deer View Grange
Nursing Home, provides context for the study. This is a culture of surveillance and routines, which can be restrictive, infantilizing and disabling for residents. Despite this culture research findings are of socially active participants. By examining relationships through an interactional framework three thematic areas developed concerned with emotions,
interactions and classification. These thematic spheres demonstrate the
emotional self, the interactional self and the generalized self of research
informants. The emotional is concerned with the most inner and intimate self, often engaging in backstage intimacies and in thought. Significant others share with the interactional self, in frontstage performances, which are more ritualistic. The generalized self interacts with the generalized other, most often consisting of everyone in Lavender Wing and is concerned with classification and boundarydefinition. Within these spheres the described relationships are fluid and change according to the situation, and how participating actors define it. To engage in intimacies, rituals and form, and to shift between them requires social competence and active participation. People in this study demonstrate these. Despite
restrictions they offer resistance to the environment and to dementia. They
often make profound and metaphorical statements, to which this ethnography gives voice. Keywords
Everyday life; interaction; nursing home culture; people with dementia;
resistance; self and others; social competence; surveillance.

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