Spilsbury, Hilary and Kirshbaum, Marilyn (2011) Casting light into dark corners: Can social constructivism illuminate the experience of the older service user? In: RCN Annual International Nursing Research Conference 2011, 16 - 18 May 2011, Harrogate, UK.

Title: ‘Casting light into dark corners’: Can social constructivism illuminate the experience of the older service user?
Guidance on dignity for healthcare professionals (SCIE 2010) reflects changes in the power dynamics between service users and care services; there is an increased demand for service user involvement in generating developments in person-centred care. Service users can be enabled to impact on their subsequent health care through involvement in the design, conduct and implementation of research.
In terms of elderly care at home, nurses are well placed to examine the distinctive social conventions, assumptions, and clinically significant perceptions of the individual, of which health care professionals may not be aware. For example, societal norms such as manners and language may be discordant if an age difference between nurse and client spans several generations.
The constructivist approach focuses upon ‘participants’ constructions of their reality and is used to address complex social relationships. Constructivists assume that participants actively create meaning (Silverman 2010). Gergen (1994) adds breadth in stating “The terms and forms by which we achieve understanding of the world and ourselves are social artefacts - products of historically and culturally situated interchanges among people” (p49-50).
The aim of the ViPER session is to introduce novice researchers to the constructivist approach and generate discussion surrounding the challenges of uncovering the subjective views of older people who are confined to the home.
The presenter and ‘discussant’ will put forward key issues and considerations to encourage debate surrounding the values and challenges of using a constructivist approach. The concept of ‘dignity’ in everyday life within domiciliary care will be used as the context for the discussion.
As the boundaries of health and social care research continue to blur, delegates will have an opportunity to discuss how nurses can use constructivist methodologies to better understand and thereby be in a more informed position to provide effective and individually responsive care.

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