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Development of a framework for recovery in older people with mental disorder




To evaluate whether a conceptual framework of recovery developed for working age adults holds value for users of older people's mental health services, including those with dementia.


Thirty-eight qualitative interviews were undertaken with service users and carers from an older people's mental health service in South London and were analysed using grounded theory methods.


Components of recovery, which appear to be meaningful to older people with mental disorder include the following: (i) the impact of illness, (ii) the significance of personal responsibility, and (iii) specific coping strategies. Unlike their younger peers, older people did not aspire to a new and revised sense of identity, nor did they seek peer support from others with lived experience of mental illness. Three components of recovery were identified as being distinct to older people: the significance of an established and enduring sense of identity; coping strategies, which provide continuity and reinforce identity; and the associated impact of physical illness. Finally, two additional components of recovery were identified for people with dementia: (i) the changing experience over time and (ii) support from others.


Mental health policy is increasingly framed in terms of ‘recovery’. This paper provides empirical evidence of how it applies to users of older people's mental health services. Practice implications include the need to focus on the maintenance of identity, and embed the values of empowerment, agency and self-management within service delivery. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.