The personal significance of home: habitus and the experience of receiving long-term home care

Sociol Health Illn. 2005 Mar;27(2):161-87. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2005.00438.x.


The physical, symbolic and experiential aspects of receiving long-term care are examined in this paper using Bourdieu's concepts of habitus and field. We draw on data from an ethnographic study of home care in 16 homes in urban, rural and remote locations in Ontario, Canada. Across all cases, data about domestic and caregiving routines were gathered through observation, interviews with clients and/or the primary family caregiver, interviews with service providers and videotaped tours of the home. Based on the analysis of these data, we argue that a transposition of logics and practices occurred when the domestic and health care fields were superimposed within the spaces of the home. Although all of the care recipients and their family caregivers indicated a strong preference for home care over institutional care, their experiences and practices within their homes were disrupted and reconfigured by the insertion of logics emanating from the healthcare field. These changes were manifested in three main themes: the politics of aesthetics; the maintenance of order and cleanliness; and transcending the limitations of the home. In each of these dimensions, it became apparent that care recipients engaged in improvisatory social practices that reflected their ambiguous and changing habitus or social location. The material spaces of their homes signified, or prompted, altered or changing social placement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Architectural Accessibility
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease
  • Environment Design
  • Female
  • Home Care Services*
  • Housing / standards
  • Humans
  • Interior Design and Furnishings
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Long-Term Care*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Space
  • Privacy*