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Institutional Flexibility and Dementia Care in Urban China (MAGH Lecture, 12/5/2018)

Posted: 11/30/2018 (Local Events)

On Wednesday 5 December 2018, the Medical Anthropology and Global Health Seminar Series is pleased to present its last lecture this Fall quarter 

“Institutional Flexibility and Dementia Care in Urban China”

Lillian Prueher – PhD Candidate Department of Anthropology

As the government and medical marketplace respond to China’s aging population, the role of professional, non-family based elder care institutions is fluctuating. While it was once seen as a last resort, now institutional care holds many potentialities – a form of care for purchase; an essential tool for the State to use in meeting citizen needs; a space brimming with both the promises of biomedical intervention and uncertainties about whether or not such promises will ever be realized. In this talk, I draw on nearly 16 months of ethnographic fieldwork carried out in urban China between 2015 and 2018. I discuss a private dementia care unit and how “good,” or morally acceptable, care came to be understood and enacted in different ways for different residents living there. I argue that this institutional flexibility stemmed from staff members’ attempts to balance residents’ physical and cognitive needs with their family members’ disparate financial resources and levels of involvement in daily life within the facility. I consider implications this need for flexibility has for understanding the intersection between decision-making authority and money in this setting.

Lillian Prueher is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology and an MPH student in her final year in the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington. She received an MA in Anthropology in 2017 from the University of Washington, and she is currently in the process of writing her MPH thesis and her anthropology dissertation. Her research focuses on understanding conceptions and practices of “good care” in non-family-based dementia care settings in mainland China and in Denmark.

For more information about the MAGH lecture series, contact Marieke van Eijk (

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Date: 12/05/2018

Time: 3:30-4:50 PM

Location: PAA A102