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Feeling useful and engaged in daily life: exploring the experiences of people with young-onset dementia

  • Deliane van Vliet (a1) (a2), Anke Persoon (a1) (a2), Christian Bakker (a1) (a2) (a3), Raymond T.C.M. Koopmans (a1) (a2) (a4), Marjolein E. de Vugt (a5), Annemiek Bielderman (a1) (a2) and Debby L. Gerritsen (a1) (a2) (a4)...



To explore the aspects of daily life that give people with young-onset dementia (YOD) a sense of usefulness.


Eighteen people with YOD and 21 informal caregivers participated in this qualitative study. Participants were recruited from specialized day-care centers for people with YOD in the Netherlands. Four focus groups were conducted with people with YOD, and four with informal caregivers. Focus groups were audio-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using inductive content analysis.


Four themes emerged from the analysis: (1) staying engaged, (2) loss in daily life, (3) coping and adaptation, and (4) external support. Staying engaged in activities that provide a sense of usefulness or participating in leisure and recreational activities as much as possible in daily life emerged as the key theme. Retaining a sense of usefulness was considered both important and possible by having social roles or participating in functional activities. The importance of activities providing a sense of usefulness seemed to decrease over time, while the need for pleasant activities seemed to increase. Experienced loss, coping, adaptation, and available external support are important parts of the context in which the person with YOD tries to engage in daily life as much as possible. Active coping styles and external support appear to play a facilitating role in staying engaged.


It is important for people with YOD to have the opportunity to feel useful; especially in the early stages of the condition. Caregivers should be educated in ways to enhance a sense of usefulness and engagement in daily life for people with YOD.


Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: Debby Gerritsen, Department of Primary and Community Care, Radboud University Medical Centre Nijmegen, P.O. Box 9101, 117 ELG, 6500 HB, Nijmegen, the Netherlands. Phone: +31 24 361 9588. Email:


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