Listen and you will see the person through the dementia




dementia, listening, person, basic psychological needs, relatedness, competence, autonomy


Dementia is an ever-increasing health and social problem, with a growing number of people being affected worldwide. As dementia progresses, dependency on others increases, requiring the presence of caregivers. Caregivers tend to focus on the diagnosis itself – dementia – which makes it difficult to see the person in their uniqueness. The person is there, and can be seen by listening, which requires time and communication skills. The voices of older adults living with several types of dementia, collected while working as a psychologist in a nursing home, are presented in the first person to bring forward the person they are. These excerpts of interactions illustrate the basic psychological need of relatedness, which is built through interaction, stories, and touch, and the needs of competence and autonomy. The framework of this paper encompasses validation therapy, person-centered care, and self-determination theory. Two conclusions emerge: Seeing the person through the dementia enables an adequate psychological assessment and a helpful supportive psychotherapy, and it also makes us acknowledge and help satisfy the three basic psychological needs of relatedness, competence, and autonomy.