Effects of dementia knowledge and dementia fear on comfort with people having dementia: Implications for dementia-friendly communities [2019]

Background and objectives
Advocates for dementia-friendly communities emphasize the need for the public to know about the dementias and to experience social comfort with people having dementia. This research tested a conceptual model of influences on social comfort, including two types of dementia knowledge and personal dementia fear.

Research design and methods
Data were collected from 645 Wisconsin residents through an online platform (Qualtrics®) and community outreach efforts. A hierarchical multiple regression was conducted and its results were mapped onto a figure representing the conceptual model of social comfort.

Greater personhood-based knowledge (based on observations of the capabilities and perspectives of persons with dementia) and less personal dementia fear significantly predicted higher levels of social comfort, while biomedical knowledge did not. Although more personhood-based knowledge improved overall comfort regardless of the level of biomedical knowledge, people with higher levels of biomedical knowledge benefitted the most from having personhood-based knowledge.

Discussion and implications
These findings suggest that activities that promote personhood-based knowledge may enhance social comfort. These activities may be most effective for individuals who already have a high level of biomedical knowledge about people with dementia. Community members and professionals ought to strike a balance between biomedical knowledge and personhood-based knowledge, as the two together may be associated with higher levels of social comfort. This could benefit the promotion of dementia-friendly community initiatives.

Alexandria R Ebert, Danica Kulibert, Susan H McFadden
Dementia, February 10, 2019