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Glenys Caswell

Senior Research Fellow, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences

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Biography

From 1988 until 2001 I worked in social care, supporting people with mental health problems to live independently in the community. In 2001 I went to Queen Margaret University College in Edinburgh and during the course of my undergraduate degree in sociology and social policy I discovered a strong interest in social research. I went on to complete a Master's in Research and a PhD at the University of Aberdeen. My research interests are centred upon the social context of death and dying, with a focus on the ways in which individuals navigate their way through customary practices in particular social settings.

Teaching Summary

My teaching interests focus upon aspects of the social context of death and dying and social research skills.

I supervise both master's students and undergraduates undertaking their dissertations.

Current PhD students:

Bing Cui: Understanding End of Life Care for Older People in China: A Phenomenological Study

Morna O'Connor: The Digital Memories Study: Exploring how groups of bereaved people utilise and experience the posthumous digital artefacts of their dead.

Yakubu Salifu: Exploring home-based supportive and palliative care for patients with Advanced-stage Prostate Cancer in a resource-limited sub-Saharan African country (Ghana)

Research Summary

My research interests are focused upon the ways in which we handle dying and death in contemporary Britain, and how individuals navigate their way through complex social practices. I have a… read more

Recent Publications

'Caring for frail or seriously ill older people on acute hospital wards.' Priorities for the care of the dying person. De Montfort University, Leicester. 7th October 2016.

'Challenging the belief that no one should die alone.' Death, dying and social work conference, University of Sussex, September 6th 2016.

'Dying alone: exploring meanings and questioning assumptions.' British Sociological Association annual conference, Birmingham, April 2016.

'Is the sociological autopsy an effective and ethical methodology for researching the deaths of people who lived and died alone?', British Sociological Association's Death, Dying and Bereavement annual symposium, London, November 2015.

"I would rather die than go into care': Exploring perspectives on living and dying alone', 12th International Conference on the Social Context of Death, Dying and Disposal, Alba Iulia, Romania, September 2015.

'Turning one's face to the wall: Social death as choice?', Centre for Death and Society, University of Bath, themed conference on social death, Bath, June 2014.

'Dying alone: the sociological autopsy as a tool for understanding', British Sociological Association annual conference, Leeds, April 2014.

'Indigent funerals in 21st century Scotland', Death in Scotland Conference, Edinburgh, February 2014.

'Caring for frail or seriously ill older people on acute hospital wards', Sue Ryder Care Centre Seminar, January 2014, with Dr Kristian Pollock and Professor Rowan Harwood.

'People who live and die alone: Agents who choose or victims of circumstance?', 11th International conference on the social context of death, dying and disposal, Milton Keynes, September 2013

'Open awareness of dying in hospital: A necessarily good thing?', 11th International conference of the social context of death, dying and disposal, Milton Keynes, September 2013

'We can do nothing for the dead': comparing approaches to the funeral of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland in the early 20th and 21st centuries, Death in Scotland conference, Edinburgh, February 2013

'A qualitative exploration of dying with dementia in the acute hospital setting', British Sociological Association Medical Sociology Conference, Leicester, September 2012

'Crossing the divide: Public and private aspects of post-death regulatory practices', British Sociological Association annual conference, Leeds, April 2012

'Spirituality in 21st century funerals: Exploring practices in a traditional and a modern Scottish setting'. LOROS Spirituality in Palliative Care Conference, Creaton, 26 - 28 October 2011

'Dying with dementia in the acute hospital setting', British Sociological Association Medical Sociology Conference, Chester September 2011.

'A funeral fit for its purpose?' 10th International Conference on the Social Context of Death, Dying and Disposal, Nijmegen, The Netherlands, September 2011.

'Watching: A woman's role in Isle of Lewis funerals', Sue Ryder Care Centre, University of Nottingham, June 2011.

'Caring for frail or seriously ill older people on acute hospital wards', British Sociological Association Annual Conference, London, April 2011.

'Managing death in twenty-first century Britain', British Sociological Association Annual Conference, April 2011.

'A family affair? Managing death in the twenty-first century', 7th Global Conference on Making Sense of Dying & Death, Prague, November 2010.

'Scottish Presbyterian approaches to funeral music', A good send-off: Local regional and national variations in how the British dispose of their dead, Centre for Death and Society, University of Bath, June 2010.

Current Research

My research interests are focused upon the ways in which we handle dying and death in contemporary Britain, and how individuals navigate their way through complex social practices. I have a particular interest in the notion of the 'good death' and what role the accompaniment of the dying person by others plays in achieving a 'good death'. I am working to develop a programme of research around the concept of dying alone, exploring situations where the dying person is not accompanied. This work draws upon my recent pilot study (see below) and will examine the issue from differing perspectives.

I am currently working on the following projects:

1) ACTION: A phase III multicentre cluster randomised clinical trial to assess whether the Respecting Choices Program improves quality of life and symptoms of patients with advanced cancer.

2) ACTION: Exploring the perspectives of patients, personal representatives, healthcare professionals and facilitators of an Advance Care Planning intervention: a qualitative study.

3) Managing medicines for patients with seriously illness being cared for at home

Past Research

Between April 2014 and March 2016 I led a pilot project: 'Exploring perspectives on dying alone: A pilot study of sociological autopsy as research methodology'. This was a British Academy funded project gathering preliminary data on people's views on dying alone and also exploring the most effective way of recruiting participants and the ethical issues involved in such research.

Between December 2012 and summer 2015 I worked on 'Cascading knowledge about end of life care at home: the development and piloting of a training programme for those who help carers and a carer resource pack'. This was a participatory action research project, which developed a freely available online training programme. This is designed to provide basic skills and knowledge for volunteers and carer support workers who give support to carers in end of life contexts.

Between December 2012 and May 2014 I was working on 'Lung cancer diagnosed following emergency admission: improving patient experiences and outcomes'. This project was led by Dr Andrew Wilcock and it aimed to obtain a detailed understanding of the characteristics, needs, experiences and outcomes of patients with lung cancer who are diagnosed following emergency admission, and to identify areas in the diagnostic and treatment pathway where there is scope to improve the care provided to this group of patients and their carers.

From June 2010 until November 2012 I was working as a post-doctoral research fellow on a study called 'Caring for frail or seriously ill older people on acute hospital wards'. This project, led by Dr Kristian Pollock, explored end of life care in the acute hospital setting for older people with dementia.

My PhD, which I completed in 2009, was a qualitative exploration of Scottish funeral practices undertaken in the Department of Sociology at the University of Aberdeen.

Future Research

Following on from the successful completion of my British Academy funded pilot project, 'Exploring views about care and independence towards the end of life for people who live alone', I am currently developing proposals to explore specific aspects of the topic in greater depth. These aspects include: exploring perspectives on dying alone; using the sociological autopsy as a tool to examine lone deaths which have already occurred; media analysis of dying alone; representations of dying alone.

School of Health Sciences

B Floor, South Block Link
Queen's Medical Centre
Nottingham, NG7 2HA

telephone: +44 (0)115 823 0850
email: shs-enquiries@nottingham.ac.uk