A Buberian Approach to the Co-construction of Relationships Between Professional Caregivers and Residents in Nursing Homes

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Abstract

This article demonstrates the value of a Buberian approach to relationships between professional caregivers and residents in nursing homes. Extant research on relationships between professional caregivers and residents typically distinguishes between task-centered and person-centered communication yet tends to privilege either the perspective of professionals or residents. To address this issue, we develop an approach that addresses the co-construction of I-It and I-Thou relationships, based on Martin Buber’s social existentialist philosophy. In turn, we show the merit of this approach by using it to analyze interactional data from an observational study on morning care in Dutch nursing homes. As these examples illustrate, our analytical perspective is useful because it highlights how different caregiver–resident relationships are co-created and unfold over time. Thus, by revealing how these relationships are worked out in everyday interactions through subtle shifts between task-centered and person-centered communicative practices, this article offers important insights for improving the quality of care in nursing homes.

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