Communication & Medicine, Vol 15, No 3 (2018)

Dementia and identity: A corpus-based study of an online dementia forum

Annika Bailey
Issued Date: 15 May 2020

Abstract


Dementia is often interpreted as a loss of identity because of the changes it causes in memory, mood and behaviour. Such a binary interpretation impacts the quality of care an individual receives and reinforces stigma surrounding the condition. In this paper, an approach informed by social constructionism considers how people with dementia on an online forum discursively construct identities in relation to dementia. Utilising the tools of corpus linguistics, the study examines six-months of forum contributions, totalling 120,000 words. A close analysis of the keywords dementia, Alz, illness and disease reveals how forum users position themselves around and despite dementia. A collective identity is constructed which asserts shared experiences and the ability to empathise, while in other instances linguistic choices distance the individual from dementia, advocating a distinct, non-dementia identity. The paper illuminates some of the ways that people with dementia negotiate the complexities of identity construction while navigating the challenges of living with chronic illness.

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DOI: 10.1558/cam.36150

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