Fighting the living death through the maintenance of personhood: a study on a support group for early-stage Alzheimer's disease

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Adomako, Paul Robert Kwaku
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University of Guelph

Using a participant observation methodology, interactions from a support group for individuals with early stage Alzheimer's disease was analyzed for themes related to the maintenance of personhood. Transcribed discussions from support group meetings were also analyzed for themes related to the psychological needs of a dementia patient, and how the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease impacted group members' sense of self. The thematic analysis revealed that for participants (N = 12), the support group environment did foster the maintenance of personhood through the use of strategies, personal stories and shared experiences. Support was found for Kitwood's (1997) theory on needs of a dementia patient, and for four additional needs clustered around identity. The results from these analyses indicated that the issue of identity maintenance was a unifying theme among the experiences of study participants. Further, there was evidence to support the notion that the support group also functioned as a personhood maintenance group.

Alzheimer's disease, Early-stage, Support group, Personhood, Observation methodology