Lost in the present but confident of the past: experiences of being in a psycho-geriatric unit as narrated by persons with dementia Academic Article uri icon


  • AIM: To illuminate meanings of being in a psycho-geriatric unit. Background. There are known risks associated with moving persons with dementia from home to an institution, but little is known about how they experience being in psycho-geriatric units. METHOD: Using open-ended research interviews, six persons with mild to severe dementia were asked to narrate about their experiences in the hospital. The interviews were interpreted using a phenomenological hermeneutical method of analysis. RESULTS: The comprehensive understanding of being in a psycho-geriatric unit points towards an understanding of being lost in the present but confident of the past. The analysis showed that the participants appeared lost as they could not narrate where they were and why, but that they became confident when narrating about their previous life. The analysis also showed that being in the hospital meant sharing living space with strangers, invasions of private space and establishing new acquaintances. Being in the unit could also mean boredom and devaluation for participants. The interviews were interpreted in the light of narrative theory of identity: persons with dementia narrating about previous life experiences as to make claims of how to be interpreted by others; as persons instead of merely as 'demented' patients. CONCLUSIONS: Experiences of care narrated by persons with dementia present meaningful and useful information that can provide feedback to inform care practice. RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: Experiences of care from persons with dementia provide meaningful information about care and the doing and being of staff. Creating time for conversations with these persons may facilitate well-being.

publication date

  • February 1, 2008

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