Intended for healthcare professionals

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Views & Reviews Review of the Week

Reflections on ageing

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 01 June 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3395

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Dementia, dehumanisation and lessons from Polyanna

Dr Fisken's reference to Pollyanna is perhaps less pejorative than he
might think. As readers of the novels will know, there is much to be
learned about responses to illness from the adventures of the heroine,
particularly after she loses the use of her legs in a car accident.

In any event, far from romanticizing dementia, Agronin does cover the
downsides and carer distress as well but his theme of maintained quality
of life is backed up by the peer-reviewed research of Bannerjee and

Even more cogent witness come from the businessman Gerry Robinson in
the heart-breaking BBC documentary 'Can Gerry Robinson fix dementia
care?'. In it he showed how perceptive and attentive communication at the
pace of the older person with dementia can break down barriers and re-
assert personhood - if only his skills could be more widely disseminated
to those providing care to those with dementia and their families!

Competing interests: No competing interests

08 June 2011
Desmond O'Neill
Consultant physician in geriatric and stroke medicine
Centre for Ageing, Neuroscience and the Humanities, Trinity College Dublin