Bruce Walmsley & Lynne McCormack | Severe dementia: relational social engagement (RSE) during family visits | Aging & Mental Health Vol. 21 , Iss. 12,2017
Objective: Few studies have utilised observation to investigate retained awareness when individuals with severe dementia interact with family members. Seeking evidence of retained awareness in those with severe dementia, interactive family visits in care homes were observed and analysed.
Method: Five family groups (14 individuals) completed 10/15-minute video recorded family interactions. Speech and non-speech interactions were analysed using Thematic Analysis.
Results: One superordinate theme: Distinctive family bonds; overarched two subthemes, in-step and out-of-step describing positive and negative familial interactions. In-step interactions revealed family groups reciprocating social support, having fun together, and willing to go on the ride together. Out-of-step interactions characterised social frustration, non-reciprocity, and sidelining of members with dementia. Although awareness fluctuated, complex awareness was observed in the speech/non-speech expressions of those with dementia. In response, visitors appeared to treat those expressions and behaviours as understandable. Observed outcomes were out-of-step when visitors sought to retain the familiar and in-step when visitors sought to optimise all communication possibilities.
Conclusion: Video recorded family interactions and analysis revealed: (a) awareness was retained in the participants with severe dementia beyond assessed levels; and (b) Relational Social Engagement (RSE) occurred within family groups despite positive or negative interactions. Implications are discussed.