Laura M. Funk, Ph.D



Laura M. Funk, Ph.D.
Associate Professor




Academic Biography

I first developed an interest in the sociological study of health and illness during my honours BA in Sociology at the University of British Columbia (completed 1997).  After that, I completed a post-baccalaureate diploma in Gerontology at Simon Frazer University (2000), where I developed further interest in the sociological study of aging and applied gerontological research.  Following this, I completed the remainder of my academic training at the University of Victoria, including an MA (completed 2002, funded by BC Health Research Foundation/Canadian Health Services Research Foundation) and PhD (completed 2008, SSHRC-funded) in Sociology, and a CIHR-funded post-doctoral fellowship at the Centre on Aging (2009-2011).



Most often, I teach SOC 2620 (The Sociology of Aging), and SOC 7420 (Qualitative Research Methods for Sociological Inquiry).  In 2018, I am also teaching SOC 3450, which examines sociological perspectives on the social determinants of health. Past students have commented that I provide prompt and complete feedback, am well prepared, approachable, helpful, and enthusiastic; these have been identified as principles of effective teaching.

Graduate Student Recruitment

I welcome the chance to supervise highly motivated graduate students with interests in the sociological study of aging, health, and formal and informal (family) care provisions. This can encompass various methodological, theoretical and applied perspectives. I am committed to promoting integrity within a supportive and encouraging graduate student-supervisor partnership, and look forward to helping guide students in their academic and career goals. I expect students to demonstrate integrity, sensitivity and considerable diligence and effort in their pursuit of academic success.

I am currently supervising graduate students who are examining a range of sociological issues related to personal care homes; home-based care for older adults; and palliative and end of life care.

Periodically, I receive grants to fund my program of research (see below), and I often hire and train graduate student research assistants to help with literature reviews, qualitative interviewing, qualitative data analysis, writing, and project coordination.  Although I cannot guarantee these opportunities to incoming students, students should let me know if they would like to be considered should openings arise. 

Program of Research

My program of research primarily addresses responsibility and care/support for older adults and for dying persons. This encompasses aspects of the sociology of aging, dying, health and family as well as social support and care work. I utilize qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods to address the issue of responsibility for health and care, within various ‘sites’ (i.e., long-term care, health promotion, home care and family care work). Most often I employ interpretive or critical perspectives, though I have also contributed to more applied gerontological and health care research projects.

My current focus is on family care provided to older, chronically and terminally ill individuals, understood within broader social, cultural and structural contexts. In my work I explore the often-invisible contributions of family members in the care of older adults, including system navigation work (Research Manitoba, 2013-2017).  I have also explored how politically and economically motivated changes in Canadian Health and long-term care sectors have led to increasing reliance on the work of volunteers and paid companions in supporting older adults (Centre on Aging, Research Fellowship, 2012), and created challenges for the emotional labour of nurses and health care aides (Riverview Health Centre Grant, with Linda Hilash, 2012).

In 2016, I was also awarded a SSHRC Insight Development Grant (with Dr. Rachel Herron, Brandon University and Dale Spencer, Carleton University) to examine how those working and interacting with older adults in different situations interpret the meaning of aggression and violence, and the implications of these interpretations for their emotional responses.

Selected Recent Publications

Funk, L.M., Peters, S., & Roger, K.S. (online first, 2017). The emotional labor of personal grief in palliative care: Balancing caring and professional identities.  Qualitative Health Research;

Funk, L.M., & Roger, K.S. (2017).  Implications of the shifting landscape of residential care for volunteers' lived experiences and role involvement. Ageing International, 42(1), 44-61.

Funk, L.M., & Kobayashi, K. (2016).  From motivations to accounts: and interpretive analysis of "Living Apart Together" relationships in mid- to late- life. Journal of Family Issues. 37(8), 1101-1122.

Funk, L.M. (2015). Sociological Perspective on Aging (Themes in Canadian Sociology Series). P. Albanese and L. Tepperman, Series Editors. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press

Funk, L.M. (2015). Constructing the meaning of filial responsibility: Choice and obligation in the accounts of adult children. Families, Relationships, and Societies, 4(3), 383-399.

Funk, L.M., Stajduhar, K.I., & Outcalt, L. (2015). What family caregivers learn when providing care at the end of life: a qualitative secondary analysis of multiple datasets. Palliative and Supportive Care. 13(3), 425-433.

Funk, L.M., Waskiewich, S., & Stajduhar, K.I. (2013-2014). Meaning-making and managing difficult feelings: providing front-line end of life care. Omega: Journal of Death and Dying, 68(10), 2-43.

Funk, L.M. (2013). Home health care and family responsibility: a critical discourse analysis of talk and text.  Healthcare Policy, 9 (Special Issue). 86-97.

Funk, L.M., Chappell, N.L., & Lui, G. (2013). Associations between filial responsibility and caregiver well-being: are there differences by cultural group?  Research on Aging, 35 (1), 78-95.

Funk, L.M., & Stajduhar, K.I. (2013) Analysis and proposed model in family caregivers' relationships with home health providers and perceptions of the quality of formal services. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 23(5), 318-328.

Funk, L.M., Stajduhar, K.I., Cohen, R., Heyland, D., & Williams, A. (2012). Legitimizing and rationalizing in talk about satisfaction with formal health care among bereaved family members.  Sociology of Health and Illness, 34 (7), 1010-24.

Funk, L.M. (2012). “Returning the love,” not “balancing the books”:  talk about delayed reciprocity in supporting ageing parents. Ageing and Society, 32, 634-654. doi:

Funk, L.M., Stajduhar, K.I., & Purkis, M.E. (2011). An exploration of empowerment discourse within home care nurses’ accounts of practice. Nursing Inquiry, 18(1), 66-76.

Funk, L.M. & Kobayashi, K. (2011). “Choice” in unpaid intimate labour: adult children with aging parents. In: Benoit, C., and Hallgrímsdóttir, H.K. (Eds.), Valuing Care Work: Comparative Perspectives on Canada, Finland, and Iceland. Pp. 171-192. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

Public Sociology

In April 2017, I authorized an OpEd first printed int he Winnipeg Free Press, on the meaning of recognition for family carers ("Caregivers don't need special day"). This was reprinted in 8 papers across Canada, and resulted in a related interview with Jim Brown, CBC's The 180 ("Caregivers need more than a national day of recognition").  This OpEd is archived with "The Evidence Network.

My other contributions to public sociology focus on enhancing the quality of life of family caregivers and older adults. I am a member of the Manitoba Caregiver Coalition and have made connections with local organizations providing services to caregivers, such as the Alzheimers Society and Ruperts Land Caregiver Services. I seek to disseminate my research to health care practitioners and policy-makers, for instance through presentations to the Long-Term Care Association of Manitoba, the Alzheimer’s Society, the Manitoba Gerontological Nurses Association, and so on. In addition, in 2012 I led the Manitoba’s Government’s Caregiver Consultations,  synthesizing the input of 400 informal caregivers in the province.  Findings have guided the Seniors and Health Aging Secretariat in implementing the Caregiver Recognition Act.

last updated: September 2017