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Suffering, Agency, and the Value of Early and Late Life

‘Do no harm’ is the first principle in both research ethics and bioethics, conveying an inherent ambiguity in the biomedical imperative to create healthier and longer human lives. As such, both medical intervention and research have always straddled the delicate border between care and violence, exposing how doing good can be easily transformed into or confused with doing harm. This …

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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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Sticky notes

I remember when I was a lot younger and my grandmother was still alive, her flat became increasingly filled with small pieces of paper attached by tape to an apparently random collection of things. On each paper was written the name of the object it was stuck to; ‘toaster’, ‘cooker’, ‘sink’, ‘chair’ and so on. Over time, as she forgot …

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Disrupted connections: On participation in caring for a mother with dementia

On a sunny, stifling afternoon, my friend, an Ayurvedic doctor, ushers me into a scantily furnished examining room of his clinic in central Kerala, South India. There, a small, stout woman sits on a chair. Her name is Mercy.1 She is wearing a salwar kameez, an outfit comprising of a long shirt, baggy pants and a scarf, rather …

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Gramps and the Gangster visit the memory clinic

“Are you free tomorrow?”

“Sure, what’s going on?”

“It’s a big day for Gramps! I’m taking him to the doctor. I guess someone from the ward office said he ought to be checked for dementia.”

I could tell Ken was trying to make a joke about this ‘big day,’ but as he started slowly walking past me, he leaned his …

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Changing Time

History and dementia are both concerned with time. Writing history is all about folding time, making sense of things that have become confused and confusing with the passage of time by bringing different points into contact. And dementia, as the reflections in this series show, suggest different ways of experiencing and enacting time. These variations in dealing with time …