Annelieke Driessen conducted the ethnographic research for her PhD at the University of Amsterdam in three residential care homes for people with dementia in the Netherlands. Her thesis explores ways of living with dementia as they are crafted in everyday life and daily care practices on the dementia ward, and pays particular attention to how good subject positions are brought about. The images presented here, which were made with/ for her research, were created by Lou Bettina Klein.

‘A Good Life With Dementia:
Ethnographic articulations of everyday life and care in Dutch nursing homes

“Images accompanying writing about dementia frequently employ ageist tropes of decline, passivity, and loss of self, reinforcing wider discourses around ageism, and contributing to widespread fear of dementia.

In the dominant public imaginary a life can only be good if it is untouched by disability. With predictions of a staggering increase in the prevalence of dementia in the not too distant future, in my dissertation I argue that we need stories and images that help us imagine how a life with dementia can be a good life.

Between 2014 and 2016 I conducted ethnographic fieldwork in three care and nursing homes for people with dementia in the Netherlands. In my thesis I tell stories of how ‘interesting subject positions’ for people with dementia are brought about in care practices in which care professionals and others engage with residents’ desires, bring the built environment into understandings of what residents do, attend to difference through food provision, and craft conditions for people with dementia to become appreciating subjects.

Key to my work is what I call ‘radical relationality’: relations bring things into being – be it subject positions, a good life or research findings. Illustrating this, Lou Bettina Klein made a series of 43 artworks expressing her engagement with the stories and analyses in my dissertation, eight of which appear in my thesis. They do not deny what is difficult, but do not reduce people with dementia to it either, and in doing so visualise and enrich my written work.”