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Finding the balance: Living with memory loss


Jean Gilmour, School of Health Sciences, Massey University at Wellington, PO Box 756, Wellington, New Zealand. Email:


Since the late 1980s, it has been increasingly recognized that the experiences of people with dementia have been omitted from research in the area of dementia and memory loss. More recently, it has been accepted that people with dementia have insight into their condition and, therefore, the ability to contribute to research. A qualitative research project was undertaken with nine participants to explore the experiences and coping strategies of people with dementia. Interviews were undertaken and the data analysed using thematic analysis. Three major themes emerged: coming to terms with memory loss, maintaining control and independence, and the impact of illness on relationships. Understanding the reality for people is essential given that representations of the catastrophic impact of dementia generate high levels of anxiety and depression. Implications for nurses’ practice include the need for skilled, well-paced, sensitive and ongoing information about the condition, along with the need to recognize and support the active coping strategies of people with memory loss.