Accepted Paper:

Creating the circumstances of care together: interactions in the network of palliative care  

Author:

Junko Iida (Kawasaki University of Medical Welfare)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper explores the sensory experience of suffering and caring in palliative care in Japan. It demonstrates how various actors try to create the environment and circumstances of care so as to stimulate divergent aspects of the senses of patients and their families.

Paper long abstract:

There is a lack of anthropological research on the bodily experience of suffering, of healing and of the interactions amongst the patients and caregivers of palliative care, especially in Japan, because of the difficulty of ethnographic fieldwork in this sensitive field. To fill this gap, this paper explores the sensory experience of suffering and caring in palliative care in Japan. Fieldwork has been conducted within the network of palliative care. This network includes patients and their families, staff, and volunteers at a hospital which provides care at home as well as in 19 bed ward for cancer patients and others suffering from a wide range of illnesses. The caring practices of nurses, care workers, physiotherapists and occupational therapists involve the most direct physical contact with patients. Their direct interactions also produce close and strong psychological connections between patients and those practicing these occupations. The interactions between volunteers and patients are more indirect, although they are no less important. The volunteers arrange, plant and tend flowers so patients can enjoy the season. They provide coffee in the lounge to produce a situation in which patients and their families feel relaxed and communicate with other patients, families, staff, and volunteers. Patients often express their feeling in haiku and etegami (picture letters) they write with volunteers and other patients. I will demonstrate how various actors try to craft the environment and circumstances of care in different ways so as to stimulate divergent aspects of the senses of patients and their families.

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The sensory experience of suffering and healing