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How family members manage risk around functional decline: The autonomy management process in households facing dementia

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  • Berry, Brandon
  • Apesoa-Varano, Ester Carolina
  • Gomez, Yarin

Abstract

Most dementia research investigates the social context of declining ability through studies of decision-making around medical treatment and end-of-life care. This study seeks to fill an important gap in research about how family members manage the risks of functional decline at home. Drawing on three waves of in-depth interviewing in 2012–2014, it investigates how family members in US households manage decline in an affected individual's natural range of daily activities over time. The findings show that early on in the study period affected individuals were perceived to have awareness of their decline and routinely drew on family members for support. Support transformed when family members detected that the individual's deficit awareness had diminished, creating a corresponding increase in risk of self-harm around everyday activities. With a loss of confidence in the individual's ability to regulate his or her own activities to avoid these risks, family members employed unilateral practices to manage the individual's autonomy around his or her activity involvements. These practices typically involved various deceits and ruses to discourage elders from engaging in activities perceived as potentially dangerous. The study concludes by discussing the implications that the social context of interpretive work around awareness and risk plays an important role in how families perceive an elder's functional ability and manage his or her activity involvements.

Suggested Citation

  • Berry, Brandon & Apesoa-Varano, Ester Carolina & Gomez, Yarin, 2015. "How family members manage risk around functional decline: The autonomy management process in households facing dementia," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 107-114.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:130:y:2015:i:c:p:107-114
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.02.014
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Beard, Renée L. & Fox, Patrick J., 2008. "Resisting social disenfranchisement: Negotiating collective identities and everyday life with memory loss," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(7), pages 1509-1520, April.
    2. Kelly M. Everard & Helen W. Lach & Edwin B. Fisher & M. Carolyn Baum, 2000. "Relationship of Activity and Social Support to the Functional Health of Older Adults," Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Gerontological Society of America, vol. 55(4), pages 208-212.
    3. Clare, Linda, 2003. "Managing threats to self: awareness in early stage Alzheimer's disease," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 57(6), pages 1017-1029, September.
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    1. repec:eee:socmed:v:208:y:2018:i:c:p:72-79 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:eee:socmed:v:188:y:2017:i:c:p:51-59 is not listed on IDEAS

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