G5 Doctoral dissertation (article)
Encountering the other : care ethics and the technologisation of care of older persons (2024)

Hämäläinen, A. (2024). Encountering the other : care ethics and the technologisation of care of older persons [Doctoral dissertation]. University of Jyväskylä. JYU Dissertations, 782. https://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-86-0152-4

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editorsHämäläinen, Antti


Journal or seriesJYU Dissertations


Publication year2024

Number in series782

Number of pages in the book1 verkkoaineisto (108 sivua, 62 sivua useina numerointijaksoina, 4 numeroimatonta sivua)

PublisherUniversity of Jyväskylä

Publication countryFinland

Publication languageEnglish

Persistent website addresshttps://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-86-0152-4

Publication open accessOpenly available

Publication channel open accessOpen Access channel


Care policy in Finland is facing a triple crisis: care costs are threatening the public economy, professionals are fleeing the sector and the quality of care is low, especially the care of older persons. As a cure for the crisis, technologisation is promised to deliver a "triple win" in the form of structural efficiency, improved working conditions and better health.
In this study, I explore care as a lived encounter and contrast it with its recent technologisation, arguing that the root cause of the crisis is a gradual disconnection with the essence of care and its impact on our lives. I delve into three overlapping domains: the theoretical debate on the essence and ideals of care within the framework of feminist care ethics; care professionals' encounters with vulnerability in care of older persons; and the reconfigurative influence of the technologisation of care on the other two domains. I explore these domains through the results of four research articles, including both theoretical arguments based on feminist care ethics and phenomenology, and empirical results derived from qualitative data consisting of interviews with care professionals (n=25) working in Finnish intensive service housing (ISH) of older persons. My research setting is based on a theoretical argument on care. I suggest that care ethics should consider care either using a phenomenological conception, as a lived encounter with the vulnerable Other, or using a poststructural conception, as a relational structure emanating from the distribution of care and neglect in a broader social context. Building on the theoretical argument, I elaborate on what care professionals view as crucial in lived care encounters with older persons. First, understanding alterity – the radical uniqueness encountered in the Other – is crucial for ideal care, which is reinforced by literature in critical disability studies and phenomenology. Second, care is constituted by embodiment. Ideal care of older persons, particularly concerning dementia, requires comprehending the Other's body as lived intercorporeality rather than an object of care. Third, I show that care encounters necessitate ethical action in the form of active attunement to the Other's vulnerable situation. This is evident when care professionals attune to the alter-temporalities of ISH residents with dementia.
Finally, I contrast these aspects of care with the technologisation of care of older persons. Care professionals' interviews depict the sociomaterial, reconfigurative impacts of electronic health records (EHRs) on ideal care practices in ISH, as well as the impacts of safety alarm systems (SASs) on dementia encounters. EHRs instrumentalise care through structured, digital recording of care events, and SASs disrupt attunement to residents' needs, being at odds with the nuanced, embodied alterity in lived care encounters. The ethico-ontological significance of lived encounters with vulnerability, which lies at the heart of feminist care ethics, provides a critical framework for evaluating any care policy and practice. I conclude that although the technologisation of care may yield the "triple win" in some areas, an unquestioning application of technology to the care of older persons may risk reinforcing the instrumental conception of the human being, rooted in a neoliberal ethos. To reduce the care of older persons to technological units or instrumental tasks is to misinterpret the social and embodied foundation of existence itself.

Keywordsolder peoplepeople with memory disorderscare for the elderlyservice housing with 24-hour assistancecare workethicssocial technologybodilinessdementiadoctoral dissertations

Free keywordscare; care ethics; care of older persons; long-term care; care technology; phenomenology; embodiment; sociomateriality; qualitative methods

Contributing organizations

Ministry reportingYes

Reporting Year2024

Last updated on 2024-03-07 at 01:46