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Mentalization in dementia care: an autoethnographic account of a project worker’s experiences

Bethany Luxmoore (Alzheimer’s Society, London, UK)
Phil McEvoy (Six Degrees Social Enterprise CIC, Salford, UK)

Working with Older People

ISSN: 1366-3666

Article publication date: 11 July 2017

Issue publication date: 17 August 2017




Mentalization is a psychodynamic concept that can help us to understand our emotional responses to others. The purpose of this paper to illustrate how the concept of mentalization may be applied in dementia care.


An autoethnographic account of the author’s experiences (first author), working as a project manager in which the author used the concept of mentalization to pay close attention to how the author’s emotional responses to people with dementia influenced thier communicative interactions.


This paper outlines how the author processed the author’s own internal experiences in both mentalizing and non-mentalizing modes, as the author wrestled with feelings of conscious incompetence. In the non-mentalizing mode, the author was pre-occupied with the author’s own anxieties. The author struggled to relate to or make sense of the experiences of the individuals with advanced dementia that the author engaged with. Moving towards a mentalizing stance helped the author to attune to the embodied experiences of the people with dementia and recognise the reciprocal nature of our communicative interactions.


This paper illustrates the role that mentalization may play in developing natural and authentic strategies to support communicative engagement in dementia care. These strategies may be of potential value to family carers. Family carers who can maintain a mentalizing stance may be more able to respond in empathic, person- centred ways to people who are living with dementia. On the other hand, non-mentalizing responses may be a root cause of mis-understanding and emotional disengagement.



Luxmoore, B. and McEvoy, P. (2017), "Mentalization in dementia care: an autoethnographic account of a project worker’s experiences", Working with Older People, Vol. 21 No. 3, pp. 147-156.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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