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Sociol Health Illn. 2019 Nov 8. doi: 10.1111/1467-9566.13004. [Epub ahead of print]

Attending to difference: enacting individuals in food provision for residents with dementia.

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Department of Health Services Research and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK.
Ethnology Department, Meertens Institute, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, KNAW, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


In the face of warnings about total institutions and growing concern about the quality of care, healthcare professionals in Western Europe and North America have increasingly been exhorted to tailor their services to individuals in their care. In this article, we invite our readers to become more interested in the kinds of differences care is being tailored to, and with what effects. Focusing on food provision for residents with dementia, we present three repertoires through which care workers attend to, and enact different sets of differences between individuals: providing choice allows residents to express fleeting preferences; knowing residents places emphasis on care providers' familiarity with a person; and catering to identities brings to the fore the tastes which make up part of who someone is. The analysis brings attending to difference to the fore as a practical process and suggests that tailoring care requires sensitivity to the different kinds of individuals enacted when attending to difference.


dementia/Alzheimer's; ethnography; food; identity; nursing home/residential care; patient centredness


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