Bounded autonomy in deciding to seek medical help: carer role, the sick role and the case of dementia

J Health Psychol. 2013 Feb;18(2):272-81. doi: 10.1177/1359105312437265. Epub 2012 Mar 9.


Social psychological theories of illness and health decision making place the individual with the symptoms at the centre. In the case of dementia it is often a relative who is first to contact health care professionals. The article illustrates how the autonomy of both the individual with symptoms and their carers is bounded by the actions of others. An over arching theme of 'bounded autonomy in decision making', and four subthemes emerged. Bounded autonomy is where a person's actions are constrained or contested by another person. There are implications for interventions to bring forward the point at which diagnosis occurs.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Dementia / diagnosis
  • Dementia / psychology*
  • Dementia / therapy
  • Female
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Personal Autonomy*
  • Sick Role / physiology*