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J Clin Nurs. 2011 May;20(9-10):1445-53. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2010.03549.x. Epub 2011 Mar 1.

Dementia and loneliness: an Australian perspective.

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1
Research Centre for Clinical and Community Practice Innovation, Griffith Health Institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, Qld, Australia. w.moyle@griffith.edu.au

Abstract

AIM:

To explore the perceptions of loneliness according to people with early-stage dementia, living in community and long-term care and also the views of their family carers.

BACKGROUND:

Research that specifically explores the influence of loneliness on dementia is limited and indicates the prevalence of loneliness and the negative relationship between loneliness and cognitive decline. There is a paucity of research that explores loneliness from the perspective of the person with dementia.

DESIGN:

A descriptive exploratory qualitative approach was used.

METHODS:

Data were collected through semi-structured audio-taped interviews. A purposive sample of 70 people with a diagnosis or probable dementia and 73 family carers were recruited from community and long-term care from South East Queensland, Australia.

RESULTS:

Four themes were identified: staying connected to others; losing the ability to socially engage; experiencing loneliness; and overcoming loneliness. The results emphasise the importance of familiar human relationships in reducing the feelings of loneliness in people experiencing dementia.

CONCLUSIONS:

People with dementia are at risk of loneliness, but placing them with unfamiliar people and environments may not improve their situation.

RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE:

Better refinement of care that takes into account the potential for loneliness and an understanding of premorbid social tendency may assist in the implementation of individualised and evidence-based strategies to assist people with dementia to lead a better quality of life. To maintain well-being, the social needs of the person with dementia as well as the family need to be considered.

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