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Caring Through Clothing

‘Caring through clothing: ‘The Map of Me’  uses peoples existing or past items of clothing as a conduit for someone living with dementia and their partner/carer to reflect and bear witness to one another’s lived experience while also reaffirming their ‘sense of self’ and exploring their own personhood in the presence of another.

This is a simple intervention in an existing lived system rather than a design project which sets out to change the participants’ way of interacting with the world. The method looks at the contents of participants’ wardrobes and the photographs of participants wearing particular items of clothing, as  custodians of elements of embodied personhood which are in a state of repose until released back to the participant.

Many of the elements which comprise an empathic design process rely on the elements of self and personhood on an individual and on a person-centered level. To develop a framework for an empathic user centered design approach which holds the exploration of personhood and a sense of self at the core of its process, I have looked at current progressive systems being practiced in best practice nursing and care settings. There has been a huge shift in care practice for people with dementia over the last two decades initiated by Tom Kitwood’s work on personhood and Dementia Care Mapping. The evolution of these frameworks has taken place over the past 17 years in care settings with care practitioners, patients and family members. They have been empathically developed and are user focused. (Kitwood 1997)

This study takes three of the frameworks used in best practice dementia care, along with Ulrich Neissers’ 5 senses of self, and from these, a set of explorative questions have been developed to explore sense of self and personhood through clothing. I use illustrative drawing as a reflective practice to enable a deeper subconscious engagement with the method. This can generate an increased co-understanding between the theoretical underpinning of the method and its practical process.



Illustration: ‘My lived experience through clothing’  TB.Mooney 2016

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