Interviewing people living with dementia in social care research

Samsi K, Manthorpe J


This review focuses on qualitative research approaches used in interviews with people living with dementia. Semi-structured and unstructured interviews are a popular method of qualitative data collection, potentially unearthing rich data in quantity and quality, and helping to build practice evidence.

Interviewing people living with dementia poses several ethical, methodological and practical challenges – including gaining consent, taking account of the symptoms of the dementia syndrome, negotiations with gatekeepers, proxies or informants, and analysing data. These are discussed along with strategies to address them. As with other users of adult social care services, there is also the need to avoid any impression that the interview may affect service entitlements. Aids such as Talking Mats and field notes are also discussed. Sampling as an iterative aid to qualitative interviewing is briefly outlined.

Although most of these approaches are shared with health services and other research, those particularly relevant to social care research are drawn upon and the implications of using qualitative interviewing to improve practice with people living with dementia are highlighted.

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