Understanding dementia and dementia care

From Dementia

Dementia is set to become one of the key health and social care challenges of the 21st century and is attracting global policy attention mainly arising from concern about increases in the number of people with dementia, particularly in developed countries.

Biomedical understandings of dementia have long influenced care policy and practice; more recently, evidence-based psycho-social and social gerontology approaches have been advanced. This paper highlights links between theory, policy, practice and research in dementia care, and how these in turn shape further understandings of dementia care.


This paper discusses theoretical models for understanding dementia and how these are emerging in the formation and development of dementia care policy across the UK. Dementia attracts multi-disciplinary and multi-professional questions and responses. Three broad theoretical models underpin dementia care policy (as well as practice and research): biomedical, psycho-social and social-gerontological. These are critically assessed and discussed in relation to illustrative examples of dementia policy across three policy regions of the devolved UK. The contribution and implications of theoretical models of dementia policy highlight the importance of recognising how different theoretical understandings of dementia influence dementia policy. The development and improvement of policy and practice in the area of dementia care require an understanding of the often implicit theoretical approaches to dementia.

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Article details
Anthea Innes and Jill Manthorpe (2012). Developing theoretical understandings of dementia and their application to dementia care policy in the UK Dementia : 10.1177/1471301212442583

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