There was an Old Woman: Maintenance of Identity by People with Alzheimer’s Dementia

  • Dena Shenk

Abstract

In this chapter, we examine how people with Alzheimer’s disease maintain their identity and sense of self as evidenced in their conversation over time. An individual’s ability to produce and retain self-identity is a requisite skill for social interaction. Researchers have demonstrated that this ability is not destroyed by the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease itself (Kitwood 1990; 1993, 1997; Kitwood and Bredin 1992a; 1992b; Sabat and Harré 1992). The neurological impairment caused by Alzheimer’s disease does, however, make it more difficult for the individual to effectively organize and sustain their various “selves.” Focusing on causative factors within the social milieu, social science research is turning to studies of social interactions which may influence the progression of the disease (Golander & Raz, 1996; Kitwood, 1990, 1993, 1997; Kitwood & Bredin, 1992b; Nussbaum, 1991; Sabat & Harre, 1992; Sabat 2002) and its social causes (Kitwood 1990). Utilizing a lifecourse perspective, our focus in this chapter is on how the person with dementia retains and communicates a sense of identity by recounting memories and life experiences, personal values and views. The focus is on the lifetime of experiences and choices that the individual brings with him or her to later life and the experience of living with Alzheimer’s disease.

Keywords

Dementia Folk 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Atchley, Robert & Barusch, Amanda (2003) Aging: Continuity and Change. (10th edition). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.Google Scholar
  2. Baltes, Paul B. & Baltes, M.M. (1990) “Psychological Perspectives on Successful Aging: The Model of Selective Optimization with Compensation.” In Successful Aging: Perspectives from the Behavioral Sciences, Paul B. Baltes & M.M. Baltes (eds.) NY: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bastings, Anne Davis (2003) “Looking back from loss: views of the self in Alzheimer’s Disease”. Journal of Aging Studies 17: 87–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chaudhury, Habib (2003) “Toward a theory of (re) discovering the self in dementia: place as a pathway”. Presented at the annual conference of the Gerontological Society of America, San Diego, November 22, 2003.Google Scholar
  5. Clare, Linda (2003) “The predicament of self in dementia”, symposium discussion paper presented at the annual conference of the Gerontological Society of America, San Diego, November 22, 2003.Google Scholar
  6. Cohen-Mansfield, Jiska, Golander, Hava & Arnheim, Giyorah (2000) “Self-identity in older persons suffering from dementia: preliminary results.” Social Science and Medicine 51: 381–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Downs, Murna & Surr, Claire (2003) “Theories of self and the implications for dementia care,” presented at the annual conference of the Gerontological Society of America, San Diego, November 22, 2003.Google Scholar
  8. Giele, Janet Z. & Elder, Jr. Glenn (1998) “Life Course Research: Development of a Field.” In Janet Z. Giele & Glenn Elder Jr. (eds.) Methods of Life Course Research: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 5–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Goffman, Erving (1959) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Woodstock, NY: The Overlook Press.Google Scholar
  10. Golander, Hava & Raz, Aviad E. (1996) “The mask of dementia: images of ‘demented residents’ in a nursing ward”. Ageing and Society, 16: 269–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Harris, Phyllis B. & Sterin, Gloria J. (1999) “Insider’s perspective: defining and preserving the self of dementia”. Journal of Mental Health and Aging, 5: 241–56.Google Scholar
  12. Kitwood, Tom (1990) “The dialectics of dementia: with particular reference to Alzheimer’s disease”. Ageing and Society, 10: 177–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kitwood, Tom (1993) “Towards a theory of dementia care: the interpersonal process”. Ageing and Society, 13: 51–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kitwood, Tom (1997) Dementia Reconsidered: The Person Comes First. Berkshire, UK: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Kitwood, Tom & Benson, Sue (eds.) (1995) The New Culture of Dementia Care. London: Hawker.Google Scholar
  16. Kitwood, Tom & Bredin, Kathleen (1992a) “A new approach to the evaluation of dementia care”. Journal of Advances in Health and Nursing Care, 1(5): 41–60.Google Scholar
  17. Kitwood, Tom & Bredin, Kathleen (1992b) “Towards a theory of dementia care: personhood and well-being”. Ageing and Society, 12: 269–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Moore, Linda & Davis, Boyd (2002) “Quilting narrative: using a repetition technique to help elderly communicators”. Geriatric Nursing 23: 262–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Nussbaum, John F. (1991) “Communication, language and the institutionalised elderly”. Ageing and Society, 11: 149–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Post, Stephen (1995) “Alzheimer’s disease and the ‘then’ self”. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, 5(4): 307–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Quadagno, Jill (2005) Aging and the Life Course: An Introduction to Social Gerontology (3rd edition). NY: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  22. Riley, Matilda White (1998) “A Life Course Approach: Autobiographical Notes”. In Janet Z. Giele & Glenn Elder Jr. (eds.) Methods of Life Course Research: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 28–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Sabat, Steven (2002) “Selfhood and Alzheimer’s Disease.” In Phyllis Harris (ed.) The Person with Alzheimer’s Disease: Pathways to Understanding the Experience. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 88–111.Google Scholar
  24. Sabat, Steven & Harre, Rom (1992) “The construction and deconstruction of self in Alzheimer’s Disease.” Ageing and Society, 12:443–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Shenk, Dena, Davis, Boyd, Peacock James, R. & Moore, Linda (2002) “Maintenance of self-identity in later life: case studies of two rural older women”. Journal of Aging Studies, 16: 401–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Shenk, Dena, Kuwahara, Kazumi & Zablotsky, Diane (2004) “Older women’s attachment to their home and possessions”. Journal of Aging Studies, 18: 157–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Small, Jeff A., Geldart, Kathy, Gutman, Gloria & Scott, Mary Ann Clark (1998) “The discourse of self in dementia”. Ageing and Society, 18: 291–316.Google Scholar
  28. Tappen, R.M., Williams, C., Fishman, S. & Touhy, T. (1999) “Persistence of self in advanced Alzheimer’s disease”. Image — the Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 31(2): 121–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Vittoria, Anne K. (1998) “Preserving selves — identity work and dementia”. Research on Aging, 20: 91–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Dena Shenk 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dena Shenk

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations