Rehabilitative bodywork: Cleaning up the dirty work of home care

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Care work for elderly people has been characterised as dirty work, owing to
its proximity to the (dys)functions and discharges of aged bodies and the
notions of disease, decay and death associated with the idea of ‘old age’.
However, a wave of reform programmes in Danish municipalities promoting
‘rehabilitative’ care practices aiming to empower, train and activate elderly
citizens provides opportunities for homecare workers to renegotiate their
status and reconstruct their work and occupational identities with a
‘cleaner’ and more optimistic image. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in
two Danish homecare units, this article analyses how rehabilitative care
practices, drawing on a narrative of the third age, provide an optimistic
and anti-ageist framing of homecare work that informs the development of
new occupational identities for care workers as coaches rather than carers
in relation to citizens. Furthermore, rehabilitation efforts change the
bodywork of care, rendering it more distanced and physically passive, and
rehabilitation efforts also involve extensive ‘motivational work’ aiming to
help citizens to see themselves as capable, resourceful and self-reliant.
However, while rehabilitation efforts become a new resource in care
workers’ ‘taint management’; they also entail potentially negative
consequences in terms of responsibilising and disciplinary approaches to
elderly citizens.
TidsskriftSociology of Health and Illness
Udgave nummer7
Sider (fra-til)1092-1105
Antal sider14
StatusUdgivet - 1 sep. 2016

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