The limits and ethics of autonomy and choice in older people who are care-dependent

Presenter: Professor Joan Ostaszkiewicz, Professor Katie Featherstone, and Dr Tiina Vaittinen

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About the presentation

This special end-of-year seminar brings together three researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds whose research draws attention to the limits and ethics of autonomy and choice in older people who require assistance with everyday personal care, particularly transgressive intimate care. The researchers present findings from their individual programs of research that illuminate cultures of care in institutional care settings that privilege practices of containment, restriction, and restraint and inadvertently undermine the autonomy of people who are care-dependent. Using continence care as an exemplar, they will argue for an ethic of care that recognises the reciprocity inherent in caregiving relationships and reframing the concept of autonomy to accommodate the needs and dependency of the care-dependent individual and upholds their dignity.

About the presenter

Professor Joan Ostaszkiewicz is a Principal Research Fellow and Director of Aged Care at the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI). She coordinates a program of research focusing on ageing and aged care, including continence caregiving, dementia caregiving, social support, quality of care and aged care systems support and evaluation. She is also a Registered Nurse and Adjunct Professor at Federation University.

Professor Katie Featherstone is Professor of Sociology and Medicine and Director of the Geller Institute of Ageing and Memory, University of West London. Katie’s portfolio of ethnographic research responds to a pressing contemporary challenge: the need to improve the quality and humanity of care people living with dementia receive in Social Care and NHS hospital settings. 

Funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research, Katie’s research examines institutional cultures of care, drawing on traditions in ethnography and medical sociology. It shines a spotlight on resistance to care, continence care, and restrictive practices, which represent significant features of everyday care within NHS and social care settings and are taken for granted and invisible aspects of everyday care associated with poor outcomes. This work informs public policy, training and education, and improvement strategies within NHS Health Boards and Trusts. Katie also founded and leads an NIHR funded ECR mentoring scheme and collaborates with Dementia UK and Alzheimer’s Research UK to support research capacity and education in the field of dementia.

Dr Tiina Vaittinen is University Researcher in Tampere University, Finland. She is a transdisciplinary social scientist and ethnographer, whose work focuses on social justice and political economies of health and social care and their complex local and global entanglements. Presently, she leads the Pad Project, which is a multidisciplinary research project that seeks to develop holistically sustainable continence care. She has developed an ethics of needs as an extension of feminist ethics of care, with a particular interest in the corporeal ethics, politics, and economics of dementia care. Together with Catia C. Confortini (Wellesley College, US) and Shweta Singh (South Asian University, India), she co-edits a book series on feminist perspectives on peace, justice, and violence.

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Further information: [email protected]

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