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A Poetics of Dementia

One rainy morning in November, I called my mother.

“Hi mum, how’re you doing?”
“Well, it isn’t much fun to be sitting here in a chicken run all day long. They’ve even stretched the mesh right along the sideboard.”

I picture my mother, who had been immobile for years, seated in her blue-painted wicker chair next to the window. Within …

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Veracity: A Triptych

Angela was angry—even now, when I listen to the audio recording, I can hear the bitterness in her voice. We sat in the conference room of the public library near her home, where we had met for a formal interview, and she detailed the reasons for her anger, starting right in even before I had turned on the recorder, such …

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Restoring the balance: Living well with pain

Like dementia, persistent pain comes with irreparable losses: physical restrictions, strained relationships, financial problems, perished dreams and ambitions. Both conditions require ethnographers and care professionals to shift focus from cure to care, from treating illnesses to learning how to live with restrictions. The question thus emerges: how do we learn to live with such ‘diseases that do not go away’ …

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Sticky notes

I remember when I was a lot younger and my grandmother was still alive, her flat became increasingly filled with small pieces of paper attached by tape to an apparently random collection of things. On each paper was written the name of the object it was stuck to; ‘toaster’, ‘cooker’, ‘sink’, ‘chair’ and so on. Over time, as she forgot …

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Disrupted connections: On participation in caring for a mother with dementia

On a sunny, stifling afternoon, my friend, an Ayurvedic doctor, ushers me into a scantily furnished examining room of his clinic in central Kerala, South India. There, a small, stout woman sits on a chair. Her name is Mercy.1 She is wearing a salwar kameez, an outfit comprising of a long shirt, baggy pants and a scarf, rather …

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Gramps and the Gangster visit the memory clinic

“Are you free tomorrow?”

“Sure, what’s going on?”

“It’s a big day for Gramps! I’m taking him to the doctor. I guess someone from the ward office said he ought to be checked for dementia.”

I could tell Ken was trying to make a joke about this ‘big day,’ but as he started slowly walking past me, he leaned his …

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