Does social competence impact quality of life for people with a diagnosis of dementia
The symptoms associated with dementia are many and varied. Until now, much of the research has focused on changes in memory and the ability to perform activities that we do every day such as cooking and driving. However, many people with dementia and their carers report other subtle changes in behaviour, such as those that occur in social situations and in relationships. Performing well in social situations requires people to be able to pick up on social cues such as facial expressions and subtle vocal and language changes that suggest someone is meaning something else than what they are saying. Failure to interpret these social cues correctly can be damaging to relationships with caregivers and can lead to social isolation. Whilst researchers have been able to show that some people with a diagnosis of dementia do have trouble with social cues (known as social cognition), they have not yet looked at whether problems with social cognition are related to overall quality of life. This project will examine whether impairments in social cognition affect quality of life and the quality of relationships with the caregiver. Results from this project may provide us with the information required to develop management strategies to help maintain relationships for longer.
Dr Michelle Kelly holds a clinical research position in the School of Psychology, The University of Newcastle.