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Poetry, philosophy and dementia

Ellen Jones (Brighton, UK)
Tab Betts (Brighton, UK)

The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice

ISSN: 1755-6228

Article publication date: 9 May 2016




The purpose of this paper is to describe the use of poetry by family carers as a way into the inner world of a person with late stage dementia, consistent with their values, preferences and experiences; enhancing the wellbeing of both the person with dementia and family carers.


The use of poetry is being increasingly recognised as valuable in improving wellbeing for people with dementia. Poetry has an intrinsic quality which is well-suited for people with dementia: it does not require following a storyline and therefore can be enjoyed by those with no short-term memory.


The paper describes the benefits to both family members and the person with dementia; the use of poetry opened up expression of deep emotions, improved communication and enriched family relationships.

Research limitations/implications

Use of poetry by family carers with people with late stage dementia is under researched in the UK and further study of the impact of this intervention would be beneficial.

Practical implications

Poetry can be used practically in both small groups in care homes or community settings and also one to one by family carers. Of especial value are poems that have been learnt by heart when young.


Finally, the paper also draws attention to the positive lessons we can learn from people with dementia.



Jones, E. and Betts, T. (2016), "Poetry, philosophy and dementia", The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 75-80.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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