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Restoring the balance: Living well with pain

Like dementia, persistent pain comes with irreparable losses: physical restrictions, strained relationships, financial problems, perished dreams and ambitions. Both conditions require ethnographers and care professionals to shift focus from cure to care, from treating illnesses to learning how to live with restrictions. The question thus emerges: how do we learn to live with such ‘diseases that do not go away’ …

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Thinking pain

Care worker Annika announces that she does not want to go to Mr Moran. “He always complains.” “I’ll go”, says her colleague Robin, and turning to me he says, “I don’t have the intern today so you can come along if you want to see for yourself how it goes”. We head off to assemble the materials for the morning …

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The House

The question of how Willem was coping, alone in the big house, had come to concern many of those surrounding him. Over the past couple of months, Willem had been tired, and was showing up at the drop-in centre less and less. His daughter had called on others to help him to prepare warm meals. He himself talked of his …

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The final station

The sun wakes her up. But Mrs Wijngaard keeps her eyes closed. She is 90 years old and sits quietly in her armchair in her apartment in the nursing home. And lets her thoughts wander. For three months she has been living here now, in an apartment with a living room, one bedroom, private bathroom and a kitchen corner. She …

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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 …