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Review of family therapy and dementia: twenty-five years on

  • Susan Mary Benbow (a1) and Victoria Sharman (a2)
Abstract
Background:

We reviewed the literature on family therapy and dementia to investigate the following: what is known about the use of family therapy in the context of living with dementia; what are the challenges of working in this context; and what guidelines/models are available to guide family therapists working with families living with dementia.

Methods:

We searched English language literature from 1992 onwards, classified the resulting papers into broad categories of theoretical, expository, or research (descriptive, quantitative, or qualitative), and conducted a narrative review to draw learning points from the identified papers.

Results:

In total 31 papers were identified: five theoretical, 11 expository; and 15 research papers. Several papers described methodologies; psychotherapeutic interventions applied to family members; or complex intervention packages in which the role of family therapy could not be separately identified, rather than family therapy. A range of outcomes were investigated, often involving the caregiver. Several authors suggest areas in dementia care where family therapy is likely to be beneficial.

Conclusions:

Although the literature on family therapy and dementia has grown over the past 25 years and suggests potentially useful roles for therapy, a number of challenges exist in terms of context, family, and therapy itself. There is a need for further research, particularly into the following fields: How to evaluate the success of therapy; how to ensure treatment integrity; how to make techniques from family therapy available more widely; and how to train the health and social care workforce in working with families.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed to: Dr Susan Mary Benbow, Centre for Ageing Studies, Faculty of Health and Social Care, University of Chester, Room CRV305/6, Riverside Campus, Chester CH1 1SL, UK. Phone: +44-1244-512249; Mobile: +44-7789-485435. Email: drsmbenbow@gmail.com.
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International Psychogeriatrics
  • ISSN: 1041-6102
  • EISSN: 1741-203X
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