Bioethics Blogs

A Good Death: Towards Alternative Dementia Personhoods

By Melissa Liu
Melissa is a Medical Anthropology PhD student at the U. of Washington, Seattle. Her nascent research circles the intersection of neuroscience, dementia, and design. Melissa is also a Neuroethics Fellow with the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, an NSF ERC.  
Something is amiss. Why is there a neighborhood of houses within this assisted living facility? Why do all the houses in the neighborhood have the same 1950s design? Am I standing on carpet? It looks like a garden path. The ceiling feels like a sunset in real time. [1] Where am I? When is this? The questions above are inspired by Lantern, one of several memory care facilities in Ohio based on a patent-pending memory care program created by Jean Makesh where rehabilitation is the goal [2] [3]. However, many more models around the world are based on Reminiscence therapy, a type of therapy which technically has “[no] single definition” but generally “[involves] the recalling of early life events and interaction between individuals” [4]. Research shows that “Reminiscence therapy is used extensively in dementia care and evidence shows when used effectively it helps individuals retain a sense of self-worth, identity and individuality” [4].

Reminiscence therapy serves as the foundation of many types of dementia village (DV) iterations. DV and similarly designed places are based on various models of caregiving and therapies. DV are memory care communities designed with the goal of caring for residents with dementia who live in their personal memories. The communities are designed to provide spaces for a high degree of reminiscence that allows freedom for residents to live their realities.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.