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Interactions and Relationships in Long Term Care: Photography and Narratives by Direct Care Workers

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Dena Shenk
Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry September 2012, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 535-556


The challenge of hiring and retaining well-trained caregivers for the growing numbers of elders in need of care is a global concern. This study was designed to understand the views of direct care workers and included 15 nurse aides and med techs working in an assisted living and special care assisted living community for people with dementia. Each participant was provided with a digital camera and asked to take photographs “to show what caregiving means to you.” Analysis is based on group discussions about the full set of photographs created by the direct care workers and individual written and oral narratives about four photographs chosen by each participant. The categories generated from these data represent the direct care workers’ perceptions of the approaches to quality caregiving and the relationships involved in doing their jobs well. By focusing on the essential relationships and interactions, rather than primarily on the required care, we can begin to imagine the caregiving experience in terms of a communal rather than an institutional experience. We can then productively turn our focus to the people involved rather than emphasize their roles as providers or recipients of care.

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