Understanding the communication of older people with dementia living in residential care
This thesis explores the communication of a group of older people with dementia living in a residential care home and specifically, seeks to understand how living with dementia in a care home influences communication. The study draws broadly on a symbolic interactionist perspective and uses an ethnographic, inclusive, video methodology. In so doing, the study grounds the research in the experiences of the older residents with dementia and explores communication as it is interwoven with social life. The empirical data, on which this thesis is based, were gathered over the course of six months in one residential care home in Central Scotland. Analysis of these data, in conjunction with the theoretical literature informing the study, led to the development of a framework and a set of concepts to understand the communication of the older people with dementia living in residential care. This framework was used to examine the ways in which the older residents' experiences of institutionalisation, ageing, and dementia, generally, and of life in the care setting, specifically, influenced their communication. The findings revealed that the older residents made diverse meanings of their experiences in the home, and mat many of the meanings that they made were threatening to their self-identity, self-determinacy and social relationships. The residents engaged in a range of strategies to respond to the impact of these meanings and to negotiate their life in the care home. The research presented in this thesis has many implications for understanding the experiences of older people with dementia in residential care. In particular, the research highlights the need for a new social understanding of dementia, that examines the experience of dementia in relation to broad structural and cultural processes and that seeks to promote the social inclusion and citizenship of older people with dementia.