Troubling Care - Critical Perspectives on Research and Practices

By Kitchen, Brigitte | Canadian Review of Social Policy, January 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Troubling Care - Critical Perspectives on Research and Practices


Kitchen, Brigitte, Canadian Review of Social Policy


Troubling Care - Critical Perspectives on Research and Practices Eds. Pat Armstrong and Susan Bradley Toronto,ON: Canadian Scholars Press, 2013.

Reviewed by Brigitte Kitchen

Growing old is often considered a problematic stage in the life cycle. The need for care is certainly not entirely age dependent. None of us know when we may need to be cared for as the result of a debilitating accident or chronic illness; or when we may be called upon to provide care for someone close to us. Yet, it is likely that, as we age, we may experience health problems requiring support and care provisions that make us dependent on others. Having to be cared for is a shared human condition that some of us may not ever have to experience. The vast majority, or 90% of older persons in Canada, continue to live independently but many require, in varying degrees, some support with their personal care, nutrition, household chores and mobility. In 2012, about 8.1 million persons, 28% of the population, provided care to a family member or friend with a long-term health condition, disability or aging needs (The Daily, Sept. 10, 2013). Others, that is 352,205 persons, or 7.1% of person 65 and over, were living in special care facilities, relying on paid care from strangers (2011 Census (Statistic Canada http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2011/as-sa/98-312-x/98-312-x2011003_4- eng.pdf ). Troubling Care penetrates deeply into the complexities and intricacies of care in Canada. The book offers a comprehensive exploration of the often neglected subject of the state and practices long-term residential care by a group of 14 authors of faculty and students from a variety of academic disciplines and different research interests. The authors were brought together in a year-long seminar at York University in the context of a seven-year and ongoing international research project, yet only one chapter of this book's chapters addresses long-term care outside Canada. The project was to determine why "what is happening to care in Canada is troubling" (opening sentence of the introductory chapter of the book). And indeed, it is troubling. One researcher found that 70% of the residents in one large long-term care facility had a paid personal assistant that was hired by their families; a figure that sadly attests to the state of care (p.12).

To help readers find their way through vastly different topics, the book is structured around four central themes presented in four sections. Each theme is preceded by a preface that provides some background of what is covered in the chapters and posits a number of relevant questions. It seems that this was done to bridge the divergence between academic disciplines and research interests and to make the connection between theoretical perspectives and the realities of practice. All contributors to the book recognized and accepted feminist political economy as the appropriate analytical framework on which to ground their work. Consequently, gender emerged as a key issue in a care system that has been characterized as being by women for women. Because they typically live longer then men, women represent the majority of informal and formal care givers in different care settings. Indeed, in most societies women traditionally assume primary responsibility for the care of children, the sick, persons with incapacities and the ageing. Troubled Care provides overwhelming evidence that the traditional gendered division of labour into separate spheres of work for women and men with marked differences in social validation and remuneration still prevails, regardless of the massive entry of women into the paid labour force and the shift of a great deal of care work from unpaid home care work to paid work in the market.

Section I. Caring Theories sets out the direction of the various theorizations developed from the authors' research. Suzanne Day (chapt.1) addresses prevalent variations in the conceptualization and understanding of care. …

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