BLOG – Interdem Special Symposium ‘Living well with dementia and social health’

The aim of this symposium was the introduction of social-health as a meaningful and helpful supplement to the previous research approaches on psychosocial aspects of living well with dementia and as an attractive conceptual model for the development and evaluation of psycho-social interventions.

Myrra Vernooij-Dassen underlined the significance of the social-health model for dementia care research and in terms of the connection between research in medicine and neuroscience and psycho-social research. Rose-Marie Dröes provided a comprehensive definition of social-health, its operationalization and influencing factors and discussed implications for intervention development as the result of a collaborative work of the Interdem Social Health Taskforce (Dröes et al. 2016, published in AMH). It is important to mention that the social-health model does not replace concepts such as quality of life or well-being but rather includes these concepts on a meta-level. Vjenka Garms-Homolova’s presentation showed that the overall cognitive performance rather than a particular cognitive function plays an important role for social health. Autonomy and self-determination are prominent aspects of social-health and they are assumed to represent essential values in person-centered dementia care. Jonathan Serbser discussed conceptual incongruities within the literature on person-centered care. The concept of autonomy is used heterogeneously and lacks definitional clarity. This confusion mainly results from different understandings of personhood which in turn has an impact on the understanding of autonomy in a dementia context. He concluded that further conceptual fundamental work is necessary to put the concept of social health on solid grounds. When taking the concept of social-health into account it is fundamental to hear the voice of people with dementia. Referring to the example of Quality of life Bob Woods pointed out to the value of self-expressions of people living with dementia for dementia research. However, existing standardized instruments show limitations in assessing the dynamic nature of quality of life. To explain and to influence the coping and balancing processes of people with dementia in order to be able to live well with dementia tailored and time-sensitive approaches to quality of life are required. He named promising developments in this area but illustrated also the challenges in the development of new instruments for Quality of life.

Margareta Halek