Alongside Dementia

PI: Jenny Paananen, PhD

Researchers: Jenny Paananen (Postdoctoral researcher, Finnish language, University of Turku), Riitta Suhonen (Professor, Gerontological Nursing Science, University of Turku), Camilla Lindholm (Professor, Scandinavian Languages, Tampere University), Milla Luodonpää-Manni (Lecturer, Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki), and Johanna Rannikko (student, Nursing Science, University of Turku),

Advisory board members:  Charlotta Plejert (Senior Lecturer, Speech language pathology, Audiology and Otorhinolaryngology, Linköping University), Marco Pino (Lecturer, Communication and Social Interaction, Loughborough University), Sirpa Wrede (Professor, Sociology, University of Helsinki), Annikka Immonen (doctoral candidate, Cultural History, University of Turku), Anne Merta (lecturer, Turku University of Applied Sciences, chair of the Memory Association of Finland Proper, Hanne Mansala (Director of Services and Development, the Memory Association of Finland Proper)

Funding: Academy of Finland 2020­–2023

The multidisciplinary project Alongside Dementia combines linguistic, social, and gerontologic perspectives to improve interaction between healthcare practitioners and family members of persons with dementia. This type of interaction is known to be challenging due to the emotional burden family members experience when dementia begins to limit the autonomy of their next of kin (Alzheimer’s Society 2017). Aside from the aspects of stress and responsibility, previous studies have also shown that family members of persons with dementia are not satisfied with the level of information they receive about care (see Suhonen et al 2015).

In order to educate the care personnel to better acknowledge the role and needs of the family members, interaction in dementia units needs to be studied per se to discover what kinds of interactional practices are used, and how those practices are perceived. To do that, this project uses triangulation and analyzes 1) video and audio recorded data of authentic interaction in dementia units, 2) survey data on the experienced quality of the interaction, and 3) focus group interviews designed to uncover the institutional conceptions that healthcare practitioners have about family interaction in dementia care. The principal methods of the study are multimodal conversation analysis and content analysis.

The project is especially topical due to the ongoing crisis in elderly care in Finland, which has highlighted serious deficiencies in elderly care. At the same time, the project is part of a larger movement aiming to utilize humanistic knowledge to promote wellbeing in society. In addition to publishing the results in international, peer reviewed publications, the project promotes implementing the results into the education of healthcare practitioners. The project is executed in the department of Nursing Science in the University of Turku as a part of the Research programme Older Individuals’ Health, Nursing and Services. To increase the societal impact, the project collaborates with the Memory Association of Finland Proper to produce accessible, popularized information for the families of persons with dementia.

 Keywords: applied linguistics, clinical interaction, conversation analysis, dementia, elderly care