Embracing the Negative Capability of Dementia

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This article argues for the importance of narrative medicine in recognizing how people with dementia (PWD) understand and present their identities to others. The author outlines how John Keats's poem "When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be" was used to encourage conversation between herself and her father (who has suspected but unconfirmed dementia) about his memory loss, his fears, and ultimately how he understands these two issues in relation to his own identity. The author proposes adopting Keats's concept of negative capability--both the refusal to reconcile conflicting views and the encouragement of empathetic thinking--as a means of engaging in conversations about dementia.


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