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What is Dementia? Implications for Caring at the end of Life
  1. Julie Watson
  1. Julie Watson is PhD candidate, funded by a studentship from the Economic and Social Research Council, Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, University of Edinburgh. Email: J.E.Watson-1{at}


Dementia is understood in a number of different ways within different fields of practice, e.g. health and social care. In Western society, predominantly biomedical ideas of dementia influence the experiences of people who have dementia. Limitations of biomedical models of dementia have led to the development of other ways of understanding dementia. These include the social-psychology, critical gerontology and disability models. However, such models are also limited, particularly in the context of advanced dementia and dying. This article demonstrates that the way dementia is understood is important with regard to the care considered possible or appropriate at the end of life. A move away from polarised understandings of dementia is proposed in favour of a broader understanding that offers therapeutic potential to those with advanced dementia at the end of life. Ways in which such a broader understanding might influence end-of-life care are explored, including the importance of relationships in supporting the sense of self of a person with dementia and the role of physical care as a way of developing positive relationships. Conflicts of interest: none

  • Advanced dementia
  • End-of-life care
  • Models of dementia
  • Personhood
  • Selfhood

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