Ethnography of a Gendered Individual essay

ethnography of fictional individual who wanted to enter the medical field. The paper starts off with a 2-page assessment of a pseudo-interview that will form the structure of the entire ethnography. The interview and the analysis followed all exhibit the different social, ethnic and cultural aspects of the fictional character.


The fictional character constructed for this paper is Sara Bench. Sara is a foreigner who moved in from a European country with her family when she was 15, right after her grandmother’s demise. She is a very strong and intelligent individual, one who is determined and dedicated to becoming a nurse and chooses to open and run an adult facility in later years when given the opportunity. She is a happy-go-lucky girl but one who is willing to work hard and long hours when it comes to her work. In the interview below, we see the personal and social factors that instigated her to make the academic and professional choices that she made.

The interview

Medicine is perhaps the one aspect of the social welfare structure that has always attracted me. I have aspired to be a nurse, specializing in senior Alzheimer’s disease and its treatment. I have made conscious choices throughout my academic life that will allow me to pursue my dream in the long-term while simultaneously supporting my family in running their restaurant business.

I started out my specialized medical studies by attending community college part-time and supporting my family’s restaurant business by working full time. I finished my associate degree of science in the community college and started off work as a pharmacy technician at a drug store. I will use working as a pharmacy technician as the opportunity for me to put one step in the door that will help me in becoming a professional nurse in the long run. I chose to work at the pharmacy as it allowed me to expand my knowledge about the medications used for different treatments; I especially focused on the medications that were used for treating Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly as that was my long-term goal.

My initial interest on providing nursing healthcare was stirred due to my interest in the field of medical sciences. However, the focus on providing nursing healthcare for Alzheimer’s amongst the elderly developed after my grandmother had been diagnosed with the same disease and had to live with for a long time. In my research of elderly healthcare, I noticed that there were very strong theoretical frameworks available for high-quality treatment and there were not many facilities that were capable of providing these services in my home country and hence their practical application and monitoring was below par. I used to take care of my grandmother through her later years and could not help a great deal to ease her pain or suffering due to my limited database of knowledge and resources. My grandmother passed away as a victim to not only the disease but also as a victim to the non-delivery of the feasible deliveries that, if provided, could have assisted positively. This below par practical application became even more apparent when I moved to the United States and came across the top-notch healthcare facilities and nursing activities in numerous healthcare facilities for the elderly suffering from Alzheimer’s.

My inability to help my grandmother due to the shortcomings in the facilities provided by my home country sparked a fire in me to enter the field and make sure that the facilities that do not have the same shortcomings provide the necessary services in order to ease the suffering of the elderly suffering from Alzheimer’s disease in particular like they do in the United States. Hence, I want to be a part of the nursing facilities in the United States, learn what they do best and then apply that within the healthcare structure in my own country possibly. My belief is that if and when my grandmother would have been provided the right nursing services, then her overall suffering would have been far less and she could have passed away in a much healthier and happier state. Hence, my aim to become a nurse is to not only fulfil my own dream but also to take back some of the most useful practical structures applied in the United States healthcare industry to my home country and help in its appropriate application there.

I realize that the nursing industry in my home country does have quite a few barriers in execution due to the lack of support that they get from the top management on most occasions; however, I also believe that the nurses are de-motivated to provide the services appropriately due to their own disinterest. I hope to change that once I become part of the nursing sector in the United States so that I can not only bring a new and thorough structure of knowledge database for my colleagues back home which they will be able to refer to in order to clarify the appropriate use of medications in treating Alzheimer’s in the elderly — my work at the drug store will help me make this database as accurate and appropriate as possible — but I will also try to communicate with the top administration so that they can develop a good monitoring, reporting and tracking system for the doctors and nurses, one that mirrors the structure in the United States, so that they do not encounter obstacles in the accurate recording of successful treatments or mistakes that were made in the treatment of Alzheimer’s. This system, when used appropriately in my home country, will efficiently decrease the recurrence of human error in my opinion, and, will also simultaneously eradicate the blame game that plagues the healthcare industry in my home country currently especially in the face of inappropriate or wrong treatment of a disease.

In the following section, we move forward when Sara has opened the foster facility for adults and analyze how her social, personal and cultural influences have been carried forward into the structure of this facility.


As stated on the website by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, there are more than 500,000 children currently living in child foster care whereas not many know about the adult foster care structures available in the country (Foster Care, 2008).

The chosen ethnic individual chose to work in a hideaway and one of the very few known adult centers with an atmosphere that feels like her grandma’s house. This place (fictional) is full of fun stories about cookie baking, fingernail painting, music playing and other activities that took place there and in which she participated with the elderly.

Given the particulars of the chosen adult care facility, it was the perfect observation site for our ethnographic study for two reasons: first, the visitors’ schedule was very flexible so it was easy to meet them; and second, the facility was close to a number of schools and hence the aspect of young perception could also be interpreted here. Furthermore, the chosen individual went to one of these schools and that was what had drawn her to this facility as well. She started off by thinking that since the residents did not have many visitors, they would like her company and since she enjoyed doing fun activities and helping people, it became the perfect adult foster care facility for her (Perrons et al., 2006b).


Finding an adult foster care facility in this community was pure luck. This community is considered the coziest neighborhood in the town. It is situated on the outskirts of Buffalo as a big cozy neighborhood with this adult foster care facility built by Sara Bench, founder and co-operator, right across her own house that she had bought some years ago.

We made Sara one of our subjects for the study because of her involvement with the adult foster care since 20 years. Her passion to care for adults arose when she was nursing for her elderly grandmother for eight years until her death. About five years ago, the house across the street of Sara’s home went up for sale. Seeing her passion being fulfilled to help the adults, she bought the house and started the adult foster care facility.

Sara explained that she grew up in a very small town where the concept of adult foster care homes or geriatric homes was extremely rare especially those that housed ADD adults, i.e. The Attention Deficit Disorder patients or those suffering from Alzheimer’s like her grandmother. The difference between the foster care facility owned by Sara and other foster cares is that residents are not separated from each other based on their physical disabilities. Adult foster care is a facility for adults or elderly who either cannot live alone or live with the own families because of neglect, abuse or exploitation, as stated by the Alabama Department of Human Resources. These adults are mostly elderly who even though can live a normal home environment but require supervision in their daily activities such as feeding, dressing or personal hygiene.

There are approximately 25 licenses adult foster care facilities in the community where Sara is now living as one does not any medical background to run or start a foster care. The facility owned by Sara is licensed only to have five patients per a care-giver. Sara personally does not prefer residents with physical disabilities such as any physical weakness, old age or heart condition, and conversely prefers those with psychological disabilities such as those with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Both men and women are welcome at the facility but in contrast to women, men do not tend to last long in such environments or develop behavior problems.

Given the rate of taxes that this institution, being an adult foster care facility, has to pay, i.e. 40%, the residency price is about $5,600 per month. In comparison, when an elderly person resides in a nursing home, the cost for the country is almost $3,600 per person which is tax-free. If any one of the resident is on state health care, it is not good for Sara as the state only pays $4,000 per month which is under her caring cost (Grimshaw, 2001).

Sara, however, is determined to provide care facilities to the elderly people. It ensures that highest level of care is provided to them. It plans for better utilization of their time and offer them jobs of hair stylists, musicians and nursing assistants etc. Because of its unique services, the scope of influence of this facility in the culture is increased. It has become a flexible and easily accessible option for families to consider when they look for some place for their elder loved members (Perrons et al., 2006a).

The optimum care is described as an objective in the manual. The management aims at creating and maintaining calm and safe environment away from the busy life of city and town. In this way, they focus on physical as well as emotional fitness of the clients. Despite having the mission of individualized care, the ratio of client to staff is not high. The residential settings are maintained for comprehensive care of the clients (Kunze, 2002).

Arriving for the interview, Sara personally welcomed me. She said that whenever, a new client comes, she personally welcomes them. She is a bubbly lady, with brown hair and funky glasses. She appears to have a talkative nature. She leads the new clients towards the living room. It is situated near kitchen. In the left corridor, there are all bedrooms. The first impression that she aims to give is that about feeling at home. The most pleasant factor is absence of the smell which is usually part of such places. Jane (a fictional patient) was also present in living room on wheel chair when I arrived for the interview. Sara was painting her nails at the time.

Jane was at the age of 84 years and had been living at the facility for more than two years. She could not speak properly, so she used to communicate through groaning noises. She had white hair. She stared at everything subconsciously. There was another person who was deaf. Sara informed me about the disabilities that residents of the facility had, but did not specifically point out the individual with disability. It was to maintain privacy of the clients (Olsen and Walby, 2004). I compared Jane with the deaf person and came to know that Jane’s issue was some mental disease which was harming the brain cells. This showed that the social stature of the facility was reflective of Sara’s own social approach which was extremely welcoming, understanding and unbiased.

According to Sara, Jane is not able to express her feelings although she understands and examines things very well. Afterwards Sara took Jane’s wheel chair to the corner and went to rinse the dishes. In the mean time, I saw a white and orange cat on the kitchen counter that was extremely busy in eating cat food. I also heard the jingle of another dog’s collar. Then there was a dog too who jumped on the dining table unexpectedly. Later Sara hushed it down the table which made me giggle. The presence of all these pets gave a pleasant touch to that house and made it appear like a big happy family. There were two other ladies, named as Ruth and Patti. Both of them were sitting on the chairs and looked sleepy. Whereas, the flat screen television was showing the series of old westerns.

While I was there, I noticed Sara’s kids were roaming in the house as if they used to come here very often. And the ladies were undisturbed by such haphazard. According to Sara, besides workers, there are many other people who keep on visiting the house regularly. These visitors include friends, family, hair stylist, musicians, and sometimes a cleaning lady. The daily activities are designed according to the residents’ health and moods. I had in my mind that there were not many people who came to visit that house. But I was proven wrong (Anker, 2001). The environment of the house was not at all lonely. As the ladies went into their rooms, I also left.

I went back a couple of days later and walked straight inside without having any hesitation. Upon opening the door, I heard a deep melodious voice singing beautifully along the tines of a guitar.

I found out that Patti died one day after my last visit. Andrea was informed via a text by Juan, a foreign exchange student who was living with Sara. She died when she was asleep in a very peaceful way. She was perfectly fine the day before her death and also talked to me, thus it was extremely shocking for me to hear about her death the next day. She can never be forgotten for her hospitality and warm nature. She welcomed me tenderly and I was thankful to her.

Taking out time from my busy routine life and indulging into a new experience served as an eye opener. I entered a serene and simple environment free from all sorts of tensions and stress, unlike my daily hectic life. An adult foster care facility caters with an individualized setting and thus caters as an effective alternative against nursing homes. It is incomparable to the humane society as the residents are not bounded by anything. This facility completely contradicts my assumptions. The environment is very affectionate and loving and every individual’s views are considered. Each of the ladies opined their own view on the facility and also described the value traits of his personality (Hakim, 2004).

Mary stated that the place provides an easy access to the drugstore and pills are available easily as well. One does not need to clean up and can easily sit down and read a book with deep concentration. Moreover, the helper is also present in the nearby surroundings.

Ruth believes that it’s a valuable place for the people in case of situations when they get very ill. It makes one feel very cherished when someone cares warmly.

Undoubtedly, there is a vast difference in between the lifestyle of older generation and today’s generation. However, both the groups do share some common interest and activities, such as travelling, dating, and prom. The life story of people when they get old cannot disappear.


Anker, R. (2001). Theories of occupational segregation by sex: An overview In: Martha Fetherolf Loutfi. (ed.) Women, Gender and Work, What is equality and how do we get there? ILO, Geneva.

Foster Care. (2008). Facts for Families. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 13. Accessed March 10th, 2012 from:

Grimshaw, D. (2001). The Gender Pay Gap: a research review Equal opportunities Commission.

Hakim, C. (2004). Key issues in women’s work: female diversity and the polarisation of women’s employment Glasshouse.

Kunze, A. (2002). The Evolution of the Early Career Gender Wage Gap Centre for Economic Policy Research.

Olsen, W. And Walby, S. (2004). Modelling Gender Pay Gaps Equal Opportunities Commission.

Perrons, D. (ed.) et al. (2006a). Gender Division and Working Time in the New Economy: changing patterns of work, care and public policy in Europe and North America Edward Elgar.

Perrons, D. And Sigle-Rushton, W. (2006b). Employment transitions over the life cycle: a statistical analysis. Working-paper 46 Equal Opportunities Commission, Manchester, UK.

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