Keeping the Elderly Alive: Global Entanglements and Embodied Practices in Long-Term Care in Southeast Italy
Keywords:care work, elderly, dementia, migration, Italy, badanti
This article explores the success of the “migrant in the family” model of care for the elderly in southeast Italy and the mechanisms that bond the caregivers and their patients in a mutual dependency. I describe this model as a meeting place between endurance and vulnerability, and between the fragility of the elderly and the fragility of most of the women who work as migrant care workers. I argue that migrant live-in care work for the elderly is a combination of attentive practice and detachment in completion to the current description of care work as ritual and as tinkering and adaptation. In a broader perspective, the article shows that the economic needs in poorer regions of the world manifest in the commitment and determination to keep the elderly alive in Italy. This article reports findings from long-term ethnographic research among 34 migrant domestic care workers and 24 Italian employers in a medium-sized town in Italy. The article illustrates the findings by means of three case studies and engages with the existing literature on person-centered care in patients with dementia, biopolitics, and the global political economy of migration for work in the field of care. Migrant work for the elderly is crucial for a general understanding of social reproduction in Italy and in many other global contexts.
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