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Hope and dementia

02 March 2024
Volume 29 · Issue 3


Dementia is a terminal and progressive condition which often brings with it a loss of hope, and feelings of hopelessness in those living with the condition and their family carers. Community nurses are in a unique position of being able to interact with people with dementia and their family carers in their own homes, or the care settings in which they reside, and in some case, will be the only professionals with regular contact with the family. Therefore, they have the opportunity to increase feelings of hope in those they work with. This article will discuss the concept of hope as it relates to dementia. It goes on to give an overview of Snyder's model of hope, which presents hope as a cognitive state, and therefore presents the opportunity for professionals to increase feelings of hope. An overview of the research evidence around hope-based interventions is then given, with the ideas applied to community nursing practice using a case study. This article aims to add some hope-based interventions to the toolkit of community nurses as they work with people and families affected by dementia.

The term dementia describes a group of symptoms including changes to behaviour, cognition and social functioning caused by progressive neurological disorders (Barber, 2020). The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer's disease, with other commonly seen subtypes including vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy Bodies and frontotemporal dementia (Sandilyan and Dening, 2019). While most common in those over the age of 65 years, dementia can also occur in younger people (termed young onset dementia) (Carter et al, 2022). It is estimated that there are currently 950 000 people with dementia in the UK and this is set to increase to 1.6 million by 2040 (Wittenberg et al, 2019). People living with dementia are often supported by a family carer. This can have a significant emotional, physical and financial impact on the carer (Farina at el, 2017). Dementia is a terminal condition, leading to progressive loss of ability and eventually, death. Despite this, there is a growing interest in the concept of hope as it relates to those with dementia and their family carers (Duggleby at al, 2013; Pepper et al, 2023).

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