Review by John Valuing Older People: Positive Psychological Practice’ by ELSPETH STIRLING ( Wiley/Blackwell, 2010)
This book from Scottish clinical psychologist Elspeth Stirling is outstanding. Although it does not focus exclusively on dementia, it covers the subject very fully, and manages something that most other books about dementia never even attempt: it places it in the context of ageing generally, and gives it perspective.
Amongst its many virtues are its clear, graceful style, and the consistent presentation of helpful approaches. Where negatives are considered, the author always seeks to show how they result from a misreading or mishandling of a situation. The book is full of cameos (not, thankfully, ‘case studies’) of people, which bring the issues alive.
A new emphasis for me was that of the effect of our technological society. We are used to being asked to consider the hypercognitive bias of our culture as one of the most significant factors underlying stigma against dementia. But alongside this Stirling gives prominence to the divorce from the basic essentials of life effected by technological developments, so that, for example, we look for ‘the quick fix’ (drugs) rather than addressing the underlying mental health problems.
She argues that if only we looked at dementia in the round we might find it more acceptable. Again she points up the positive by saying: "Dementia introduces a possibility of experiencing one’s world largely through emotions and developing emotional intelligence."
This book belongs on the shelf at one’s elbow alongside other essential texts by Kitwood, Bender & Cheston, and others.