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Burning down the house: When crisis becomes daily life in early-onset dementia

For my doctoral research, I interviewed family members living with a loved one with early-onset dementia, a diagnosis that one receives under the age of 65. Jans, not his real name, was the fourth person I interviewed in April 2015. Since he lived in a remote village in the east of the Netherlands, we met at a train station to …

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George, the dog

Babe, my grandpa, was born on the kitchen tiles of a small Seattle home. His dad, whose own grandpa had run a seedy downtown brothel, would disappear and reappear throughout his life. But Babe was not like the men who came before him. He spent his youth delivering newspapers and parking cars to support his mother, went to war when …

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Strangers in unfamiliar environments: Struggles for subjectivity in a dementia care ward

During fieldwork on dementia care in a nursing home, I was struck by the complex and layered orderings of space, time and subjectivity in daily life on the wards, and the struggle this implied for people with dementia.

On her ‘daily rounds’ strolling through the nursing home ward, Mrs Hansen repeatedly expressed great relief and pleasure on meeting a familiar …

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Refraction of daily life

Attending to what makes up ‘the everyday’ has long been a challenge for scholars in the social sciences. [1] Researchers from different disciplines and perspectives have explored how mundane things matter, how ‘big issues’ sit in the small. Feminists, for example, have insisted that ‘the personal is political’, to show how patriarchal relationships are founded in the mundane ways of …

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The fool with the watering can, or asynchronous time travelling

One of the most bewildering and fascinating things about spending time with people with dementia is that they can rapidly travel through time. This was most clear with Mrs B., a daydreaming woman of 86. Her skin was deeply wrinkled and in the nursing home she kept pretty much to herself. One day, I had a long, stretched out conversation …

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Six photos of my father at 91

I have chosen to tell a story based on six photographs I took of my father, Ivio Duranti (1918-2009) in the last year of his life. He was never diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s disease, but he definitely had some of the symptoms of dementia, including memory loss, disorientation, apathy, reduced speech production, and occasional hallucinations, even though he seemed able …