I was unable to attend the Alzheimer Europe conference in the summer, but so grateful to YouTube, on which I have been watching some of the presentations, (though I am even more disappointed now).
Vid Vanja Vodušek, from the University Psychiatric Hospital, Ljubljana gave an interesting presentation on the relationships between the person with dementia and their family caregiver/s.
As he says, physical symptoms should be treated, but context is very important and the person's behaviours may be a reaction to their care. That point of view is close to my own and borne out by extensive encounters with people living with dementia at home, or in a home.
To make better sense of his point of view, it is useful to separate the notions of “Self” and “Identity” and understand how they impact on a person's behaviour.
As Vodušek's poster declares, “Self” and “Identity” are conceived as essentially dissociable in the critical literature of the psychosocial approach to dementia, where “Self” is understood as a bare function of self-reference, while “Identity” as a set of different social roles which make up the content of this self-reference.
Increasingly it is recognised that a person with dementia may react to unfamiliar people (who may well include people they have known well for many years) or situations (being dressed, undressed, bathed, being taken to the toilet or in a variety of social situations) with any number of emotional reactions such as fear, anxiety, agitation, apathy, depression or aggression.
Greater recognition of the difference between “Self” and “Identity” might certainly help carers to care more sensitively – and might result in a happier care-receiver as well.