Dignity equals distance? Pursuing dignity in care for older adults

Agnete Meldgaard Hansen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

Abstract

This paper explores how dignity is articulated and pursued by care workers in two currently prominent policy initiatives seeking to reform Danish care services for older people. Based on ethnographic case studies of 'reablement' practices and the use of 'welfare technologies', the paper shows how these attempts to create dignified care services transform interactions between care recipients and care workers. The analysis is inspired by a socio-material perspective on dignity as 'crafted' and 'co-laboured' in daily practices, in an interplay between multiple human and non-human actors. In the cases studied, dignity is articulated as closely related to older people's increasing autonomy and independence of formal care, and is pursued through enhancing care recipients' self-care ability, and through technological automation of care tasks. However, these articulations and pursuits of dignity do not stand alone. When everyday care practices are closely examined, dignity is also pursued by care workers as increased co-operation and equality between care workers and care recipients, as de-objectification, and as promotion of enjoyment and quality of life. In these practices, care is ambivalently positioned as both a potential threat to dignity, and as a prerequisite to achieving it. The paper concludes by discussing the risks of policy agendas pursuing a narrow understanding of dignity as simply independence of care.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAgeing and Society
VolumeFirstView
Number of pages19
ISSN0144-686X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press.

Keywords

  • autonomy
  • care
  • care work
  • dignity
  • independence
  • reablement
  • welfare technology

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