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Title: Care work : the social organisation of Old People's Homes
Author: Paterson, Elizabeth A.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3477 5785
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 1977
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This thesis provides an ethnographic account of life in six Old People's Homes situated in a medium-sized British city. Particular focus is placed on the implications resulting from old people becoming work, and on the contrast between paying and charity models for service. Chapter One reviews some of the existing literature on old age and Old People's Homes and reveals that the emphasis has been on policy change and on the 'integration' and 'adjustment' of the elderly. An alternative perspective for the study of Homes is outlined, whereby the detailed interaction and social processes occurring when old people become work are examined and the purposes of the actors taken into account. It is argued that concepts from research on related people-processing organisations can be utilized and that participant observation is a particularly appropriate data-gathering technique for the research task outlined. Chapter Two describes the setting in which the research was undertaken and outlines the nature of the organisations which run the Homes. The manner in which the project was executed and the problems, both technical and emotional which emerged from this methodology, are examined. Chapter Three describes the selection of Home applicants by Social Workers, and concludes that becoming a resident is not the result of being uniquely incompetent, but the outcome of everyday work procedures. Chapter Four outlines what 'care' means. This section introduces some of the main themes of the thesis - old people as work, the varied forms of care provided by Homes financed in a different manner, and the effect of these factors on the lives of the residents. Routines develop due to organisational imperatives and the personal autonomy of residents becomes restricted. By instituting different routines the non-subsidised Home is seen to create a different meaning for 'care', taking into account residents as competent beings. Chaper Five and Six examine the theories which staff develop about residents - the objects of their work. Chapter Five looks at general theories about typical residents in typical situations. Residents are seen in largely negative terms. Despite a considerable degree of consistency, staff use slightly different stereotypes to describe their own residents and those living in other Homes, the theories in the non-subsidised Home being noticeably more lenient. Chapter Six describes how particular residents are typified and the implications that this has for treatment and management. Residents are thought of in terms of personality, moral, social, physical and mental categories, and recipes for handling and approaching them are created so that excess work may be avoided. Some residents come to be viewed as creating exceptional problems for many routines of 'care'. How the categories are negotiated is also outlined and information about residents is seen to be freely passed around among staff. Chapter Seven outlines the implications which staff methods and theories have for a resident's status as social being. Chapter Eight describes the way in which staff, with their various purposes and powers, deal with the difficulties of 'inappropriate' Home work. Chapter Nine examines some of the implications of these work control strategies for a Home's reputation, and the dilemmas created for Home staff when visible standards of safety, cleanliness and contentment have to be maintained. This chapter outlines the ways in which staff create an image of an establishment in which 'proper care' is given. Chapter Ten discusses the residents' standpoint. It examines the strategies which residents, faced with extensive restrictions and mortification, use to redefine the identity assumed for them by staff, to increase their limited personal space, to improve their environment and to exert control over the routines of care. The final chapter summarises the findings and concludes that some of the variables which have been central to previous research may have less influence on actual behaviour in Homes than the many interactional factors involved when the elderly become work. It is suggested that future research would profit from further exploration of these features.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available