Positive Psychology Approaches to Dementia

Positive Psychology Approaches to Dementia

Positive Psychology Approaches to Dementia
Edited by Chris Clarke and Emma Wolverson.
Paperback 2016, 288pp ISBN: 978-1-84905-610-6 £24.99

This is a surprising book in so far as it, at first glance, appears to be a technical collection of essays written by experts in the field of dementia and psychology. It makes a distinctive contribution to the literature and is carefully edited and well organised. However it is also attractive in so far as it gives expression to a deep commitment to compassion and a desire to enhance well-being for those who are engaged in the attempt to hold the person as the focus omits the debilitating and challenging that dementia poses for both the individual and our wider communities. The book is targeted at psychologists, therapists, academics and those working in dementia care. It is to be hoped that the passion and energy with which the individual is attended to might shape attitudes and practice.

This is the first time I have read and reviewed such a book that examines the experience of dementia with regard to creativity, resilience, wisdom, hope and well-being. All the writers here embrace a radical commitment to dignity and the necessity to see the person beyond and within the disease. There are significant challenges to the medicalisation of our approach to health and social care that deserve further reflection. In other words how might the approaches captured here be delivered in every day diagnosis and support across the country?

There are 12 chapters in this volume that merge from the University of Hull. Chapter 1 sets the scene by exploring ageing health and what is described as positive psychology. Later life for all of us will mean some significant challenges to living well and we need to explore these dimensions of our health prospects sooner rather than later! Some of these themes are opened up in chapters 2 and 3 where positive psychology and its contribution to an approach to dementia are explored together with the nature of well-being in dementia.

A number of informative and creative chapters follow exploring hope, humour, resilience, growth, creativity, and spirituality. Tony Ryan and Mike Nolan explore positive psychology and relational dementia care in chapter 10. Chapters 11 and 12 complete the collection with an outline of possible ways forward for this approach to dementia. The book is clear, relatively easy to read and with one or two exceptions provides comprehensive referencing. The usefulness of the book is enhanced with excellent subject and author indexes.

This is an excellent, innovative book that sets its narratives into a wide perspective. I hope it will become essential reading for anyone who wishes to explore how best to enable and empower both person and systems into a positive experience of both dementia and the delivery of dementia care.

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