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

  • Anja Declercq Catholic University of Leuven
Keywords: qualitative research, participant observation, trust, emotional involvement


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


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Author Biography

Anja Declercq, Catholic University of Leuven
Anja DECLERCQ is a research assistant at the department of Sociology of the Catholic University of Leuven. She has a degree in Sociology and Applied Economics and was a fellow for the Flemish Fund for Scientific Research between 1995 and 1999.