Risking vulnerability: The precariousness of living with and caring for those with dementia
Alexandra Hillman1, Ian Jones1, Catherine Quinn2, Sharon Nelis2, Linda Clare2
1Wiserd, Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom. 2REACH, University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom

Abstract

This paper poses the question: how can the concept of precarity help us understand the experiences of those living with or caring for those with dementia and their relative capacities and resources for living well?  The concept of precarity recognises the vulnerabilities of older people living with dementia who may, due to increasing forms of dependence, no longer fit shared cultural frameworks regarding what constitutes or counts as a valued life.  Discourses of successful and active ageing in particular, create distinctions that potentially devalue and reinforce conditions of increased vulnerability for certain groups, including those older people with physical and cognitive frailty.  Precarity is also a concept that highlights life’s essential riskiness; it represents a universal insecurity, vulnerability and suffering that suggests precariousness is inherently shared but unequally experienced, with certain lives remaining more susceptible to risks than others. Drawing on qualitative interviews with people living with dementia and their relatives/carers, undertaken as part of the IDEAL study, we aim to identify the contexts and circumstances that contribute to experiences of precarity and to investigate the relationship between people’s life experiences and their perceptions of risk, vulnerability and the future in the context of living with dementia.