Objectives: This study explores the extent to which awareness of social and emotional function is reduced in early-stage dementia and whether this relates to the quality of life of the person with dementia (PwD), the quality of the relationship between the PwD and carer and carer stress.
Method: Ninety-seven participants with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's, vascular or mixed dementia rated their social functioning using the Socio-Emotional Questionnaire (SEQ). Carers provided parallel ratings, allowing calculation of discrepancy scores used to index awareness. Neuropsychiatric symptoms, PwD quality of life, the perceived quality of the relationship for both partners and carer stress were also measured.
Results: Factor analysis of the SEQ indicated three domains of social functioning: emotional recognition and empathy (ERE), social relationships (SR) and prosocial behaviour (PB). For PwD unawareness was related to cognitive dysfunction and psychiatric disturbance, but not to quality of life or quality of relationship. Lower awareness was associated with greater carer stress and poorer perceived quality of relationship.
Conclusion: Lack of awareness of social functioning had important implications for relationship quality and levels of carer stress.