Communication and DementiaA qualitative study about loss and rebuilding of communicative power between people diagnosed with dementia and their relatives in home care settings

Follow the links to get to know more about the research interests of the project staff members:

Jo Reichertz
Prof. em. Dr. Jo Reichertz
Carmen Birkholz
Dr. Phil. Carmen Birkholz
Sebastian Till Hartwig
Till Hartwig

About the project

For 2/3 of all persons with the diagnosis dementia the domestic setting is the main location for care, treatment and support. Everyday anew, domestic partners together with their dementing social encounters face the problem of creating togetherness despite the deficits of their relative concerned. These coordinating processes take place by means of communicative actions.

Up till now, merely the patients’ stress experience and the influence on partnership construction have been examined. However, neither everyday problems of reciprocal cooperation and coordination, nor the ways in which the interactants deal with them communicatively in their domestic setting have been focused on.

The project aims to close this gap by pursuing the following three questions:

  • How are communicative actions between dementing persons and their relatives practically performed in the domestic setting, with special regard to the reciprocal effects, and why do communicative actions enable a co-orientation between the individuals? Furthermore, the consequences of this co-orientation must be inquired.
  • Is dementia causing the loss of communication power of both the relatives and the patients? If so, how can this communication power possibly be reconstructed under the conditions of the dementia from an everyday strategic perspective?
  • Which social figurative patterns do emerge from the communicatively obtained adjustment to each other as a basis for everyday strategic cooperation and coordination processes?

These three questions shall be answered by (a) participatory observations within the domestic setting, containing treatment and care, (b) by focused videography of selected situations as well as (c) by generating narrative interviews with reference persons of the dementia patients. The aim is to reconstruct the communicative problems that have to be solved daily. How do the involved interactants manage to remodel – or newly establish – grown, everyday strategic communication routines within the ‘continual permutations of actions’ in everyday life jointly with their dementing relatives, under the conditions of the proceeding illness? Moreover, we want to find answers on the question of how these routines can be stabilised and – if necessary – transformed, sensitively to the disease progression, so that a co-orientation of actions is made possible.