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Keywords:

  • Chinese people;
  • coping;
  • early dementia;
  • empirical research report;
  • interviews;
  • nursing;
  • phenomenology

Abstract

Title. Living with early-stage dementia: the perspective of older Chinese people

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to describe the lived experiences of people with early-stage dementia and their ways of coping with the illness.

Background.  Emerging models of subjective experience and coping with early dementia have been developed in Western cultures. Understanding how Chinese people with early-stage dementia adjust and cope is an important starting point in developing interventions that can enhance their adaptive coping.

Method.  A convenience sample of 15 Chinese people in the early stages of dementia were interviewed and observed during home visits. The study involved in-depth transcribed interview data using a phenomenological approach. The data were collected in 2005.

Results.  Four themes were identified in the data: attribution of illness, experiencing losses resulting in frustration and uncertainty, adapting to a new role in relationships with family and friends and continuing to live. People with early dementia who adopted a positive outlook did so because they had made sense of and accepted the illness, received understanding and support from family and friends and were being listened to and respected.

Conclusion.  The themes emerging from the findings could be used as a framework in understanding how people cope with the onset of early dementia. The framework includes specific implications for the provision of intervention services and highlights the importance of understanding people’s own constructions of their illness and how they adjust their lives in coping.