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The Identity Maintenance Work of Family Members of Persons with Alzheimer's Disease

  • Hazel MacRae (a1)

Abstract

Drawing on a qualitative study of families' experience with Alzheimer's disease, this paper examines family members' reaction to identity transformation or loss of self in the afflicted loved one, using a symbolic interactionist perspective. The findings show that family members find this aspect of the disease emotionally stressful. Refusing to let go of what remains of the loved one's former self, they employ a number of strategies in an effort to protect her/his social and self-identity. These strategies include concealing information, medicalizing inappropriate behaviour, fostering independence, managing appearance, and perceiving selectively.

Se référant à une étude qualitative portant sur le vécu de diverses familles aux prises avec la maladie d'Alzheimer, cet article se penche sur la réaction des membres de la famille à la perte ou à la transformation de l'identité personnelle chez les proches qui en sont affligés, en faisant appel à une optique interactionniste symbolique. Les résultats montrent que les membres de la famille trouvent cet aspect de la maladie stressant sur le plan affectif. Refusant d'accepter que ce qui reste de l'ancien moi du proche parent disparaisse, ils recourent à diverses stratégies pour tenter de protéger son identité sociale et personnelle. Ces stratégies comprennent la dissimulation de l'information, la médicalisation de comportements inappropriés, l'insistance sur l'indépendance, la gestion de l'apparence physique et la perception sélective.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Requests for offprints should be sent to: / Les demandes de tirés-a-part doivent être adressées à : Hazel MacRae, Ph.D., Department of Sociology and Antrhopology, Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3M 2J6. (HazelMacRae@Msvu.ca)

Footnotes

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*The author would like gratefully to acknowledge that funding for this research was provided by The Alzheimer Society of Canada. A sincere thank you is also extended to the anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions and comments.

Footnotes

References

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