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PhD Abstracts

Author: Valerie Egdell

Thesis Title: The Changing Landscape of Informal Dementia Care: Mapping the Sites, Stages and Support

Awarding Institution: Newcastle University
Year of Completion: 2009

Abstract

In the UK people with dementia are often cared for at home by informal carers who may have poor health and/or live in social situations which intensify their needs. The scale of these needs continues to be under-appreciated. Community care policies have shifted the emphasis away from institutional care, guided by the assumption that the community will provide appropriate support. As the home has become the locus of long-term care the state has taken on a commissioning role and the voluntary has increasingly become responsible for welfare provision. The geography of care provision is complex as it is situated across overlapping sites and is shaped by issues at the macro and micro level.

Using this changing geography of care provision as a backdrop, this thesis develops the ‘geographical’ perspective in the dementia care literature. This thesis argues that due to the changing landscape of care, informal carers have to consider their needs across multiple sites and in situations over which they often have little control. Carers navigate a maze of support where members of their support network have differing expectations of their capabilities. The carer’s success or failure in these negotiations depends on the available social, cultural, financial and emotional resources which have been accumulated over the life course. As carers mobilise and draw upon these resources they reconcile individual and macro-level assumptions about their capacities, obligations and the meaning of ‘good’ care. In addressing these issues, this thesis demonstrates how macro-level neoliberal and biomedical discourses are negotiated, and become ambiguous, at the micro-level. These arguments are made using a series of carer vignettes derived from interview and diary data. Although this thesis cannot claim to be representative, it highlights common stories which raise pressing issues that contribute to understandings of carer’s coping strategies in the context of an ageing population.

Author: Rosalind Willis

Thesis Title: Does ethnicity matter? Determinants of informal support in later life

Awarding Institution: King’s College London

Year of Completion: 2010

Abstract

This thesis tested the assumption that minority ethnic groups provide greater levels of support for older people than do the White British. This may act as a barrier to minority ethnic older people accessing formal services, even though they may be in greater need of support. This study examined whether ethnicity is related to informal support transfer when controlling for socio-demographic variables. It also examined cultural values and social norms related to informal support. A mixed methods approach was used. A secondary analysis was conducted of three Home Office Citizenship Surveys (2001, 2003, 2005). Informal support exchange by people aged 55 or over with household members, with relatives outside the household and with non-relatives was explored. Logistic regression revealed only 15 out of a possible 64 differences between ethnic groups. Contrary to the stereotype, in the majority of the differences (12) the minority ethnic groups reported lower odds of transferring support in comparison to the White British group. Only three significant findings revealed higher odds of minority ethnic groups transferring support. The weight of the findings tends to refute the assumption that minority ethnic groups ‘look after their own’. Individual in-depth interviews were conducted with members of five ethnic groups - Black British, Asian, Mauritian, White Irish and White British. Minority ethnic groups accounted for support in a collective way, deriving from their culture, which they said was distinct from the White British culture. The White British group accounted for support in an individual way, deriving from their personality or experience, but they shared the same values regarding informal support as the minority groups. These included filial responsibility, respect for elders and reciprocity. It was concluded that behaviour differs little between ethnic groups. It is how people account for informal support which differs, and this may act to perpetuate stereotypes.

Author: Eva Stamou

Thesis Title: The Ageing Process and Female Identity in Midlife

Awarding Institution: The University of Huddersfield
Year of Completion: 2010

Abstract

My research examines how middle aged women (35-54 years of age) who live in the UK experience the process of growing older, and it addresses in detail the question of whether, and if so, how, their sense of self changes during midlife.

In recent years it has been argued that it is not possible to offer an adequate theory of women’s experience and self-understanding without addressing the bodily aspects of the constitution of identity in their social context. According to the ‘double standard of ageing’ hypothesis, women are not permitted to age in ways that men are; they are marginalised and ignored not only by popular culture but also by some sociologists and gerontologists. Thus, there is a need for rethinking current theory so as to ensure that middle aged women become more visible.

The themes explored in my project include: body image in midlife, participants’ notions of middle age, methods women use in order to control or conceal the signs of ageing, female sexuality in midlife, life milestones, ageism, and the double standard of ageing in British society.

The thesis contributes to the current debates within social sciences by offering new data that corroborate the hypothesis of the embodied nature of female identity, and the view that ageing is experienced as a defining factor in the development of personal female identity. Participants acknowledge that ageing is a feminist issue and their discourse confirms that there is a double standard of ageing in British society. In addition, my project challenges the idea that getting older is something pathological. It stresses the importance of diversity among women of different ethnicity and cultural background for the psychological and social impact of ageing in women’s life. Finally, this project suggests that social scientists need to re-consider their age cohort categorisations and the use of the term ‘middle-age’, which - given the currently popular and medical preconceptions - carries only negative connotations for participants.

Author: Andrew Papadopoulos

Thesis Title: Well-Being and Older People: A Qualitative Investigation into the Concept of Well-Being as Informed by an Analysis of Data Drawn from Clinical and Non-Clinical Populations.

Awarding Institution: King’s College London, Institute of Gerontology
Year of Completion: 2010

Abstract

Background: The term Well-Being is widely used within the context of health and social care for older people. Yet there is currently, no consensual definition of well-being apparent in the literature, nor has there been sufficient attention given towards an understanding of well-being that is informed by the perspectives and opinions of older people themselves.

Objective: The following research sought to investigate well-being from an analysis of data drawn from clinical, non-clinical and ethnic minority older populations.

Method: Three sources of data were analysed using a modified Grounded Theory approach with Thematic Analysis in chronological order. Firstly, ten clinical case studies involving former older adult patients who had received psychological treatment from a mental health NHS Trust. Secondly, a non-clinical population of nineteen older people drawn from the Thousand Elders Project, University of Birmingham. Thirdly, a smaller non-clinical population of ten older people drawn from an African-Caribbean community centre.

Results: Six overarching themes or properties of well-being emerged from the data namely: Integrity of Self, Integrity of Other, Belonging, Agency, Enrichment and Security. Each property having three psychological dimensions: Subjective; Behavioural and Contextual. A free-floating theme labelled Contented Life was identified as reflecting a broad subjective evaluation of one’s life. A second level of analysis of all codes was undertaken in order to explore operational relationships between the structural properties and dimensions identified. Eight themes or psychological styles were identified which were then aligned into four dimensions namely: Self-assured vs. Insecure, Something vs. Nothing, Giver vs. Martyr, Receiver vs. Dependant. It is proposed that this second model reflects the way in which individuals manage challenges and threats to one’s self in the context of one’s personal relationships.

Conclusion: It was concluded that the models taken together, reflect an eco-systemic framework for understanding well-being in older people.
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