Participant Observation in Nursing Home Wards for People Suffering from Dementia: The Problems of Trust and Emotional Involvement

Anja Declercq


This contribution describes the problems and pitfalls associated with the use of (participant) observation in nursing home wards for people suffering from dementia. The research concentrated on how different nursing homes develop their care for inhabitants suffering from dementia. In order to study this, I was a known observer in four wards, each time for several months. "Getting in" to the wards did not prove to be very problematic, but "getting along" was a lot harder. There was no reason for staff to trust a snooping sociologist until I was able to convince them I was not a spy for management. It was quite clear that the information I received was influenced by the way I was perceived. Moreover, the dementia the inhabitants of the wards suffer from and their reaction to it did not leave me indifferent. This also could influence the data gathering process.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0001254


qualitative research; participant observation; trust; emotional involvement

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Copyright (c) 2000 Anja Declercq

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