Our understanding of care in this project is based in a set of ideas known as ‘care ethics’. This approach recognises that we all need care at some point in our lives, whether as babies or infants or in later life. So care is actually part of being a human being and needing care is a basic feature of everyday life rather than being seen as a problem or a ‘burden’. Independence is so highly valued that it makes it difficult for us to see the ways in which we all depend on others and the significance of relationships in our well-being. Infact it would be difficult to survive and develop without caring relationships. This means that care is important to all of us not people who are considered ‘needy’.
As a framework for understanding care as something that we are all involved in – as givers and receivers of care, care ethics asks important questions about how care is organized in society, who has responsibility to provide care and how it is recognized and valued. These are questions that have political and moral dimensions – from working out the ‘right thing to do’ at a personal or individual level to bigger political decisions on how care should be funded.
We are using care ethics to help us think about the issues the research raises and also how we actually carry out the research.
Our research is participatory and we work with older co-researchers who are members of the public from a variety of backgrounds. It is important that the ways we work together are inclusive and recognise everyone’s knowledge whether this is professional, academic or from lived experience. All research needs to be aware of ethical issues but in our work we need to pay careful attention so that everyone we involve is valued. For example, our co-researchers may be facing similar issues to those the research is raising so it is vital that everyone feels properly supported. Our approach based in care ethics gives us the framework to develop ethical research practice. This means building supportive and trusting relationships in our research teams and in the work we do together.