Deborah O’Connor has over 30 years of direct professional Social Work practice working in the field of aging and health care. This includes maintaining a small, ongoing practice providing consultation on complex cases, especially when there are issues related to decision-making capacity and/or abuse, neglect or self-neglect.
Deborah is the founding director, and current co-director of the Centre for Research on Personhood and Dementia (CRPD) — an interdisciplinary research centre focused on understanding and supporting people with dementia and their family care partners using a lens that recognizes that the dementia experience is both a biomedical AND a social condition.
She is a founding member of the Citizenship and Dementia: International Research Network.
She has been a social worker for over 35 years. Her professional and research practice has predominantly focused on issues related to social work practice in the field of aging and she is particularly well-recognized for her work related to dementia, personhood and citizenship. She brings a lens to her work that strives to examine and make explicit the interface between the personal experience and socio-political context. Within her teaching, she tries to foster critical thinking and the articulation of the link between theory, practice and research.
Ongoing research studies include
- Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) (2018 – 2021) Putting Social Citizenship into Practice: Reducing Stigma and Promoting Social Inclusion of People with Dementia ($700,000; Co-Principal Investigator – ongoing)
- Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) (2018 – 2021) “Do you really know what I want?” Voices of People with dementia in shared decision-making about living well to end of life ($200,000; Co-investigator (Susan Cox – PI) ongoing)
- The theory and practice of understanding and assessing incapacity – contracted book in progress
- Health care decision-making and incapacity
Special Edition Journal
O’Connor, D. & Nedlund, A-C (guest co-editors) (2016) Citizenship and Dementia Special Edition, Dementia: International J. of Social Research & Practice, 15(3)
O’Connor, D. (2020) Practicing social citizenship in a context of compromised decision-making capacity: Realizing and Protecting Human Rights. Elder Law Review 12
O’Connor, D. & Mann, J. (2019) The meaning of ‘collaboration’: a candid conversation between a researcher and a dementia advocate. Nedlunds, A.C., Bartlett, R. & Clarke, C. (eds) Everyday Citizenship and People with Dementia. London: Routledge
O’Connor, D., Mann, J., & Wiersma, E. (2018) Stigma, Discrimination and Agency: Diagnostic disclosure as an everyday practice shaping social citizenship. Journal of Aging studies, 44, 45 – 51
O’Connor, D. & Kelson, E (2018) Boomer Matters: Exploring the needs and experiences of aging boomers using the emotional health program based in a senior’s community centre. J. of Gerontological Social Work, 61(1), 61-77.
Wiersma, E., O’Connor, D., Loiselle, L., Hickman, K., Heibein, B., Hounam, B. & Mann, J. (2016) Creating Space for Citizenship: The Impact of Group Structure on Validating the Voices of People with Dementia Dementia: International Journal of social research and practice 15(3).
Phinney, A., Kelson, E., Baumbusch, J., O’Connor, D., & Purves, B. (2016) Walking in the Neighbourhood: Performing Social Citizenship in Dementia. Dementia: International Journal of social research and practice 15(3)
O’Connor, D. & Nedlunds, A. C. (2016) Editorial to special edition on Citizenship and Dementia; Dementia: International J. of Social Research & Practice, 15(3)
Small, J., Hulko, W., O’Connor, D. & Drance, E. (2016) Verbal and nonverbal indicators of quality of communication between care staff and residents in ethnoculturally and linguistically diverse long-term care settings,” Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology.
Chan, SM. & O’Connor D. (2014) Personhood: Including the Chinese Person with Dementia in Research, Policy and Practice. Journal of Ethnic And Cultural Diversity in Social Work (1531-3204).
Areas of Scholarship: Critical gerontology; dementia; health and social care; critical qualitative research methodologies; abuse against older adults
Areas of Practice: Dementia; family care; long-term care; boomer issues; elder abuse; women’s issues
Graduate Committee Membership
Doctoral supervisor (Sing Mei Chan – 2005; Louise Stern, 2005; Harvey Bosma, 2007)
Doctoral Committee (Joanie Sims-Gould (interdisciplinary) (successfully defended, March 2006; Heather Peters, Nancy Black.)
MSW graduate advisor (31 students inc. 29 completed)
MSW graduate committee (32 students, all completed)
Supervised over 90 graduate research projects·
Supervised over 30 student practicums in aging or health related settings (both graduate and undergraduate)