Dementia and a Sense of Self

Dementia patients rated quality of life better when their self-concept was good

July 27, 2012 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

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(dailyRx News) A sense of self, or self-concept, comes from involvement in family, work and community. Dementia patients may have higher quality of life when self-concept is maintained.

A recent study looked at the quality of life of patients in the early stages of dementia. They found that quality of life was higher for patients who had a better self-concept.

"Keep your doctor informed about any dementia issues."

The study, led by Linda Clare, PhD, of Bangor University in the UK, enrolled 93 individuals with early stage dementia.

At the beginning of the study, they assessed self-concept using a standard psychological measure, the Tennessee Self-Concept Scale. The researchers also measured mood, quality of life and cognitive ability.

The Tennessee Self-Concept Scale is a broad measure that assesses physical, moral, family, social and work related aspects of self-concept.

The caregivers of the patients answered questions about the patient’s quality of life, distress and self-concept. The caregivers were also asked to report on their own level of distress and mood.

The researchers found that people with early stage dementia maintained a good sense of self-concept.

Anxiety and distress of the patient predicted how high their ratings of self-concept were. Caregiver ratings of self-concept for the patient were predicted by distress of the caregiver and depression in the patient.

The researchers also found that the patients’ level of self-concept was related to their rating of quality of life. Higher self-concept was linked to higher quality of life.

The authors said in the abstract, “…[I]n view of the association between self-concept and quality of life, a preventive approach focused on supporting self-concept may offer benefits as dementia progresses.”

dailyRx spoke with Dr. Bernick, Associate Medical Director of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, who has 20 years of experience in Alzheimer’s research about the results of this study.

He noted that the people in the study retained self-concept at the early stages of dementia, and there are not currently any specific self-concept building activities.

He said, “As dementia progresses, individuals lose more knowledge about their past, can become depressed or delusional, which certainly could be expected to affect self-concept.”

Dr. Bernick went on to say, “The bottom line is that caregivers need to take advantage of resources that are available to help them to reduce the stress and discouragement that comes with caregiving. These resources include respite care, participation in support groups or individual counseling, and caregiver education programs.”

This study was published July 5 in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychology. Conflict of interest information was not available.

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Review Date: 
July 24, 2012
Last Updated:
February 19, 2013