Giving Dementia a Face?

Let’s just say  I have a couple of minutes to spare due to certain online systems not working.

So I was reading the Article from Kessler and Schwender (2012). Giving Dementia a Face? The Portrayal of older People With Dementia in German Weekly News Magazines Between the Years 2000 and 2009.

This topic about media representations is something which has always fascinated me. When thinking of sayings such as: make your hobby your work, and your work your hobby, well that’s what I’m exactly doing. Criticizing Mass Media and their stereotypical portrayals hehe!

The article from Kessles and Schwender (2012) investigated photo’s of people with dementia in ‘news’ magazines according to frequency and observed characteristics.  Interestingly, Kessles and Schwender (2012) found that representations of people with dementia increased over the years and no surprise there women were often more portrayed than men. In addition, many photo’s include a person with dementia and a young ‘nurse’ (Old-Young)  or Positive portrayed old – old characters. Old-Old is termed by the authors, not me 🙂 The strange thing is that Young- Old and Old-Old are portrayed equally and mostly having positive emotions and good functional health.

For example:


You might ask, what is so wrong with positive representations of people with dementia? Don’t be such a nag! Kessles and Schwender (2012)  found that positively biased portrayals can have negative consequences if it leads to underestimations of the challenges of living with dementia. Plus in my point of view it overlooks the whole aspect of individuals and dementia care in general and these photos do not represent the reality that often happens, these photo’s of happy people are just used to sell something.

I want to add that every time I look at pictures of people with dementia ever since I’ve been in the UK: I either see portrayals of wrinkled hands ( yes true sometimes young-old hands other times old-old) or distanced others. With distanced others I mean you see the backside of people or they are portrayed as far away in the picture. I barely see these images anymore. I know perhaps because I’m biased or use different search terms.

The ‘holding hand’examples


The ‘distanced other’


Further, I know the authors only researched portrayals in Germany, and that perhaps many things have changed since 2009. However, my initial thought was yes in The Netherlands I also see more dementia care pictures only including happy people with positive cognitive health that hold their partner or nurse. On the other hand in Canada (as also Kessles and Schwender (2012) mentioned, there is a difference in portraying people with dementia for the focus tends to be more of Apathy. I also think that here in the UK the media producers more focus on Empathy instead of attracting media consumers by having portrayals of happy people with dementia.

I found out one major difference with the work from Kessles and Schwender (2012) and that is:

I used the words “Dementia” AND “Care

So withal, Kessles and Schwender (2012) state that dementia has acquired a face in media. However my question is, is this a true face? and what about the true face of CARE?

Let’s find out!





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