Volume 15, Issue 1 p. 84-99

The Pollution of Incontinence and the Dirty Work of Caregiving in a U.S. Nursing Home

Lori L. Jervis

Lori L. Jervis

1Department of Psychiatry, Division of American Indian and Alaska Native Programs, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center

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First published: 08 January 2008
Citations: 68


In U.S. nursing homes, it is the job of nursing assistants to tend to residents ' basic bodily needs, including elimination and incontinence care.

Given their frequent contact with pollutants, aides are very much at risk of becoming “pollutedpeople.” In this article, I investigate how nursing assistants' continual contact with contaminating substances impacts their status within the workplace, their relationships with others, and their attitudes toward their work and themselves as workers. I also explore how aides manage their encounters with pollutants and their stigmatized role as “dirty workers.” In doing so, I hope to explicate the meaning of elimination and of incontinence caregiving in the United States, [nursing homes, caregiving, symbolic pollution, incontinence, American culture]