Thinking about Dementia: Culture, Loss, and the Anthropology of Senility

By Annette Leibing; Lawrence Cohen | Go to book overview

1
Dementia-Near-Death
and "Life Itself"

SHARON R. KAUFMAN

This chapter is about the cultural work that dementia does, the sociomedical uses to which it is put in the American hospital at the end of life. I suggest that dementia works there in three ways: as a rationale for facilitating death, as a contested feature of what matters about the patient's identity, and as a moralclinical designation of value when a frail life is perceived to hang in the balance. In performing this multiplex work, dementia makes manifest one aspect of the ethics and politics of life itself in the negotiations it elicits about "quality of life," "loss of personhood" and "diminishing life"; in debates about what constitutes "normal" and "natural" decline toward death; and in cultural ambivalence about whether the end of "meaningful life" is reason enough for death.1 Dementia has entered the domain of choice; to confront dementia is to be faced with options for maximizing function, minimizing suffering, and organizing care. Decision making is inevitable.

Moreover, dementia, as a mutable category of knowledge and cultural form, obscures the distinction between life and death. In its various stages— early, moderate, advanced, severe, and end-stage—dementia is a condition both of death-in-life and of life-in-death. This ambiguity becomes more profound as the disease progresses, and it lies at the heart of the anguish about what to do. This ambiguity is what makes dementia so compelling for families; so unnerving in the context of the cultural importance of memory, control, and reason; and so unsettling to the existing order of things.

As with other medical sites in which productive technologies are scrutinized by ethnographers, dementia-near-death brings together biomedical and socioeconomic features of contemporary American health-care delivery in novel ways to permit and create a further remapping of the notions of life,

-23-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Thinking about Dementia: Culture, Loss, and the Anthropology of Senility
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 300

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.