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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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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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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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Taking part in and being part of giving birth: Enacting participation in a midwife-led birth situation

According to her midwife Jana, Mira’s was a textbook birth: it was quite fast, even for a second birth, and proceeded without any complications. In reflecting on her attendance at Mira’s birth, which I had witnessed the day before, Jana emphasised that her task during birth is only to observe: “Observing, keeping an objective view, and recognising what the situation …

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Opening up shrinking life-worlds

Lives change dramatically as dementia progresses. Using observations of people suffering from obsessions and compulsions, I will analyse this change along three dimensions.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterised by intrusive anxiety-provoking thoughts (obsessions) and rituals aimed at reducing anxiety, which then paradoxically come to exacerbate it (compulsions). I have been studying clinicians working with people who suffer from a severe, …

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Peripheral participants: Thinking through distortion, displacement, nullification

Warm haze

As I spoke, people looked at me worriedly. The kindness in their eyes was mixed with curiosity and concern. Rather than answering me, they turned to each other to discuss something beyond my grasp. I had aphasia and my incoherent stream of words was puzzling to the people around me. I spoke, I thought, in perfect sentences but …