Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Sherylyn Briller


In the United States individuals with Alzheimer's disease and related disorders (ADRD) are faced with multiple threats to their social lives and to their sense of self. Such threats include the assumption that our sense of self is entirely dependent upon cognition and memory, elements that become impaired in AD (Kontos 2006) and images of Alzheimer's disease as the death before death (Behuniak 2011). The move to a long term care setting with its simultaneous stripping away of possessions that supply one with personal identity also poses such a threat. Although, individuals with ADRD who move to long term care may experience a decrease in the quantity of personal possessions they will continue to be surrounded by objects.

This anthropological study employed theories of Bourdieu (1990) and Malafouris (2008) along with concepts from Schiffer (1999) to ethnographically examine the relationship between individuals with ADRD and their engagement with the material world and how this may substantiate the self and personhood of people with ADRD in long term care settings. Using these conceptual models, I examine how the multi-modal experience of four common recurring activities, bring together objects, language, ideas and bodies to accomplish a shared activity.

By taking such an approach we can better understand how sociocultural constructions of dementia along with long term care policies, practices and environments create a structure that imposes certain constraints and possibilities on the way the self is made, unmade and re-made. Understanding how policies and practices are materialized within everyday activities can aid in the development of care practices and environments that support the self and personhood of individuals with ADRD.