Background: Personhood in dementia is about treating people with dementia with dignity and respect and in a manner that supports their sense of self. It is a key element of person-centered care and a guiding principle in dementia care policy in Ireland. However, there is uncertainty around the concept of personhood and in particular how it is operationalised within formal care provision. This research examines the experiences and perceptions of family carers of people with dementia in relation to personhood and formal care provision.
Methods: This research is theoretically based on personhood as a relational concept. Using semi-structured interviews, family carers are asked about their perceptions of personhood in dementia within the context of formal care provision, supports and services. The interview questions center on important elements of personhood such as communication, flexibility, choice, respect, dignity and self-identity. Thematic analysis is used to examine the participants’ views. A total of 15 interviews were conducted with family carers, which included, spouses, children and siblings of people with dementia living both in the community and in long-term care.
Results: Preliminary results indicate that family carers and people with dementia had little to no choice in the services and supports provided to them. They were accepting of the services they received but identified elements of services which were not supporting of personhood. Some family carers were disappointed by the limited to no supports offered to them.
Conclusion: These findings are very relevant to dementia care in Ireland, both to the design of the system as a whole and also to the provision of care at an individual level. The results are significant for policy makers seeking to ensure that personhood is central in the implementation of current dementia policy and in the regulation of future formal care provision for people with dementia in Ireland.