Social Representation of Dementia: An Analysis of 5,792 Consecutive Cases Evaluated in a Memory Clinic

J Alzheimers Dis. 2017;58(4):1099-1108. doi: 10.3233/JAD-161119.


Background: Different interpretations of cognitive impairment and dementia due to differences in health structures, such as cultural differences could affect the diagnosis and treatment of the condition. it is reasonable to expect that the social and family impact of the disease and coping strategies will differ among societies.

Objective: The general aim of this study is to understand the social representations of dementia, its associated practices, and the effects they imply.

Methods: People diagnosed with clinical dementia and their families were assessed from 2005 to 2015 in the memory clinic of the Fundació ACE, Institut Català de Neurociències Aplicades in Barcelona, Spain.

Results: 9,898 people were examined and 5,792 were diagnosed with dementia. For those with a caregiver (71%), the decision-making fell on the person with dementia in 16.2% of the cases; and for those without a caregiver, in 26.4% of the cases the family did not perceive the deficits as a disease, which led to multiple risk situations (74.6%).

Conclusions: The recognition of dementia as part of aging is common among families. Consequently, risk situations may arise and diagnosis and access to treatment may be delayed. The incorporation of a social appraisal to the diagnostic process is a necessity to evaluate these situations.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; beliefs; caregiver; dementia; social perception; social representation; social-cultural.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities
  • Caregivers / psychology
  • Decision Making / physiology
  • Delivery of Health Care / methods*
  • Dementia / complications
  • Dementia / epidemiology*
  • Dementia / psychology
  • Dementia / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / epidemiology
  • Memory Disorders / etiology
  • Mental Status and Dementia Tests
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spain / epidemiology