Objective: Little is known about how and to what extent people with dementia live positively with their condition. This study aimed to review and carry out a synthesis of qualitative studies where accounts of the subjective experiences of people with dementia contained evidence of positive states, experiences or attributes.
Methods: A meta-synthesis was undertaken to generate an integrated and interpretive account of the ability of people with dementia to have positive experiences. A methodological quality assessment was undertaken to maximize the reliability and validity of this synthesis and to contextualize the findings with regard to methodological constraints and epistemological concepts.
Findings: Twenty-seven papers were included. Three super-ordinate themes relating to positive experiences and attributes were identified, each with varying and complementing sub-themes. The first super-ordinate theme related to the experience of engaging with life in ageing rather than explicitly to living with dementia. The second theme related to engaging with dementia itself and comprised the strengths that people can utilize in facing and fighting the condition. The third theme captured how people with dementia might transcend the condition and seek ways to maintain identity and even achieve personal growth.
Conclusions: This review provides a first step towards understanding what conceptual domains might be important in defining positive outcomes for people who live with dementia. Highlighting the potential for people to have positive experiences in spite of or even because of their dementia has important implications for de-stigmatizing dementia and will enhance person-centred approaches to care.
Full reference: Wolverson, E.L. et al. Living positively with dementia: a systematic review and synthesis of the qualitative literature Aging & Mental Health. Volume 20, Issue 7, 2016 p. 676-699