Understanding the individual with Alzheimer’s disease: Can socioemotional selectivity theory guide us?


Individuals often get lost behind the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) while widespread differences between these patients are morecommon than similarities. Socioemotional Selectivity Theory (SST) suggests that as we age our goals change from future-oriented (acquiringnew information) to present-oriented (enhancing the emotional, especially positive, meaning of encounters). The goal of the current article is to examine whether the principles of SST might also apply for people with AD. Some aspects of SST are found especially in the early stages of AD when awareness is often intact and cognitive impairment is relatively limited. This review has clinical significance for the treatment of AD because it focuses on what is important to the individual rather than treating patients as a homogenous group. It also highlights the importance of social networks and emphasizes the role of the proxy in AD care. Lastly, it suggests that if those with AD (like the healthy elderly) have a positivity bias then positive emotional stimuli/wording/instructions could usefully be employed in their daily treatment. I suggest that SST may be a useful starting point when attempting to address what matters to individuals with AD and conclude by providing a few suggestions for future studies.

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Mark, R. (2012) Understanding the individual with Alzheimer’s disease: Can socioemotional selectivity theory guide us?. Advances in Alzheimer's Disease, 1, 77-86. doi: 10.4236/aad.2012.13010.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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