Participatory action research to enhance the collective involvement of residents in elderly care: About power, dialogue and understanding

Susan Woelders, Tineke Abma

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The collective involvement of patients and clients in health care organizations is valued in our Western society. In practice, giving form to this involvement seems to be a complex process. In this paper we present our learning experiences with a process of enhancing the involvement of older people in a residential care home in the Netherlands, by using a participatory action research approach, called PARTNER. This approach is inspired by responsive evaluation and developed for the context of long-term care. We use concepts of Habermas’ theory to understand what happens when trying to create communicative spaces through dialogue. Our learning history shows that the involvement of residents is not an easy task, because power issues are at stake. System values seem to dominate the lifeworld and expert knowledge seems to be more valued than expressed emotions and narratives of residents. Researchers who use participatory action research must be aware of these issues of power, often hidden in language and discourse. Dialogue can be a vehicle to enhance mutual understanding, when attention is paid to underlying values, assumptions and meanings of all people. Then, the gap between system and lifeworld can be bridged and communicative spaces can be opened up.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)528-548
JournalAction research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019

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