Time and Value at the End of Life with Dementia

Natashe Lemos Dekker was awarded her PhD from the University of Amsterdam with her thesis Timing Death: Entanglements of Time and Value at the End of Life with Dementia in the Netherlands.

Interested in what people with dementia, their family members, and professional caregivers found important at the end of life, this research explored how they sought to achieve a “good” death. Lemos Dekker demonstrates that the moral value ascribed to death with dementia—the extent to which it may be welcomed or considered good—is rooted in the value ascribed to life with dementia.

Further, she shows that achieving a good death is subject to a range of temporal experiences and orientations. The different ways of making sense of and influencing the duration, speed, and significance of temporal aspects of dying can change how life and death are valued, not only in terms of a moral “good” but also in terms of its timing—whether death came at the “right” time. Managing the end of life then became a matter of producing and acting upon possible, alternative, or sometimes unwanted futures.

Based on eighteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in nursing homes in the Netherlands and additional in-depth interviews in the home setting, Lemos Dekker offers an in-depth understanding of how people may become oriented toward death, and the importance of time and future-making in managing the end of life with dementia. She argues that that the pursuit of a good death with dementia is both a temporal and a moral project.