Vicki Cotrell

Date of Award

Summer 8-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Social Work and Social Research


Social Work and Social Research

Physical Description

1 online resource (x, 572 pages)


Dementia -- Patients -- Psychological aspects -- Case studies, Quality of life -- Psychological aspects -- Case studies, Resilience (Personality trait) -- Psychological aspects -- Case studies, Well-being -- Measurement -- Case studies




This study used photovoice methodology to explore how people with early-stage dementia use their perceived strength and resources to cope with the illness. Purposive sampling was used to recruit participants. Thirteen women and seven men age 57 to 90 (mean 73.4) with MMSE scores ranging from 20 to 28 (mean 25.6) participated in the project. Participants were provided with a disposable camera and invited to take photographs relevant to their well-being. The photographs provided the means for participants to take the lead in dialogue sessions about their coping response.

Grounded theory analysis revealed that initially, early-stage dementia precipitated a disruption in well-being. For the participants in this study, learning to live with the illness was an ongoing, continually shifting process of adjustment, where the participants moved from a familiar sense of well-being to an alternative sense of well-being. In this process the participants used a variety of strengths and resources ranging from those that supported them in reconstructing identity, regaining control, and rebuilding relationships to those that assisted them in reestablishing a healthy lifestyle and restoring meaning and purpose. Striving toward well-being while acknowledging the inconceivable notion of losing one's cognitive abilities was the central strength that the participants brought to this process. It captured the paradox the participants faced in living with early-stage dementia, which was to relegate the illness to the background of their lives while managing its symptoms in the foreground.

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