dementia, ethics, taxonomy



  1. Powers, Bethel Ann


Background: The concept of everyday ethics was used to emphasize the moral basis of ordinary issues of daily living affecting quality of life for nursing home residents with dementia.


Objectives: To critically examine ethical issues of daily living affecting nursing home residents with dementia and to construct a descriptive taxonomy inductively derived from ethnographic fieldwork data.


Method: Combined anthropological methods of participant observation and in-depth interviewing were used in the natural setting of a 147-bed, voluntary, not-for-profit nursing home. Experiences of 30 residents, their family members, and nursing home staff were explored. In addition, the records of 10 ethics committee cases involving residents with dementia further enlarged the database.


Results: The taxonomy of everyday ethical issues includes the following four domains: (a) learning the limits of intervention; (b) tempering the culture of surveillance and restraint; (c) preserving the integrity of the individual; and (d) defining community norms and values. Each is representative of constellations of concerns that are grounded in the cultural and moral environment of the nursing home.


Conclusions: Results highlight the challenges of recognizing the ethical in the ordinary, and of resolving everyday issues in ways that enhance quality of life for residents with dementia and those (family and staff) who care for them.