Self-identity in older persons suffering from dementia: Preliminary results

Jiska Cohen-Mansfield*, Hava Golander, Giyorah Arnheim

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this study, we explored the role-identity of nursing home residents suffering from dementia, as well as the potential for utilizing their enduring sense of self-identity for enhancing their quality of life. Four types of role-identity were explored: professional, family-role, leisure activities, and personal attributes. The methodology included structured interviews and a case study. Participants for the interviews were 38 residents of two nursing homes in Israel. Residents, relatives, and staff members were interviewed to provide information about past roles and the degree to which those roles are maintained in the present, and about strategies for bolstering the sense of self-identity. A large range of roles were identified. All role identities deteriorated significantly, with family roles retaining the greatest prominence in the present. However, much heterogeneity was manifested in all roles. Both staff members and relatives felt that a sense of identity in residents could be enhanced in most of the residents, which would exert a beneficial effect on their well-being. Caregiving respondents anticipated that this improvement would be substantial for about half of the residents. The case study illustrates how self-identity can change throughout dementia, and how it can be utilized to improve quality of life. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-394
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2000


  • Dementia
  • Identity
  • Nursing homes
  • Roles


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