Objectives: Improving the quality of life for people living with dementia is widely accepted as an important outcome in dementia care services. Positive psychology, the systematic study of strengths, capacities, and personal resources, is one framework for understanding how a person with dementia might achieve this. This study investigated the subjective experience of hope–a construct from the discipline of positive psychology in older people with early-stage dementia.
Method: Ten volunteer participants over the age of 65 years were recruited from a memory clinic in England. Semi-structured interviews were used to explore participants’ hopes, in terms of their personal meaning, their resources, and the potential barriers and facilitators of hope in dementia. Interviews were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA).
Results: Eight themes were extracted, subsumed under two higher-order themes: ‘live in hope or die in despair’ and ‘keep living and keep living well’. Participants described how their internalized hope-fostering beliefs that were often learned during childhood were challenged by the reality of hope-hindering experiences associated with old age and dementia. A balancing process of re-appraisal enhanced resolution and this sense of stability then allowed them to develop positive attitudes towards common age-related constraints in their health and social circumstances.
Conclusion: The findings offer insight into the existence, nature, and relevance of hope in the lives of people with early-stage dementia. They provide a useful framework for developing hope-fostering strategies in early interventions that aim to assist individuals with dementia to maintain their quality of life.