Dementia: Can There Be a Silver Lining?

smiling senior citizen dementia may have a silver lining

How would you expect someone to feel after a diagnosis of dementia? Depressed? Resentful? Disbelieving?

How about: Appreciative of life? Encouraged to face the challenges to come? Freed from concerns about failure?

A study of patients with early stages of dementia or Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) found that positive reactions to the diagnosis were nearly as common as negative ones.

The study used the Silver Lining Questionnaire (SQL), a tool developed by the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center. The SQL is used to measure how those diagnosed with an illness feel their illness has affected various aspects of their life. While it has previously been administered to cancer patients, only recently has it been used with people diagnosed with dementia or MCI.

The subjects in this study, whose average age was seventy-nine, had a near-equal number of positive reactions and negative reactions, with 47% showing a positive score on the SQL.

Interestingly more than half of respondents answered positively for questions about:

  1. Appreciation and acceptance of life
  2. Concerns about Failure
  3. Self-reflection
  4. Tolerance of Others
  5. Courage to face problems in life
  6. The strength of their relationships
  7. New opportunities to meet people

The authors of the study concluded that positive outlooks are as common as negative ones, even for this difficult diagnosis. They propose further research, suggesting that studying “variables or interventions that could enhance life satisfaction in dementia could have a positive impact on the more than 50% of patients that cannot find their ‘silver lining’ yet.”

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