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Recognising and supporting self in dementia: a new way to facilitate a person-centred approach to dementia care

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 August 2009

Dementia Services Development Centre, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK.
Address for correspondence: Fiona Kelly, Dementia Services Development Centre, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, UK. E-mail:


This paper reports findings from a three-year study which integrated Kitwood's (1997) person-centred and Sabat's (2001) selfhood approaches in the design, fieldwork and analysis of a multi-method observational study that explored the social worlds of 14 people with dementia in continuing-care. The types of interactions that participants experienced in everyday ward life and during creative sessions were identified by observing, video-recording and engaging with them and by Dementia Care Mapping. The participants' responses to such interactions in terms of their well- or ill-being and expressions of self were identified and documented. The findings indicate that in the wards, staff interactions were often limited and sometimes abusive and that participants experienced ill-being, whereas during creative sessions, interactions were generally facilitatory and celebratory with the participants experiencing wellbeing. By developing the selfhood approach and integrating it with the person-centred approach, I argue that recognising and supporting selfhood (or not) during interactions can lead to qualitatively different staff behaviours, with consequences for the well- or ill-being of people with dementia. There is scope for incorporating this developed selfhood framework into staff training, for it has the potential to transform practice and the experiences of people with dementia in receipt of care.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009

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