, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 233-251

Constructing and deconstructing the self: Dementia in China

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Abstract

Within the research and clinical communities inChina senile dementia is recognized as either aprogressive neurological disease that isassociated with aging but is not an inevitablepart of it or as a concomitant of vasculardisease. These understandings are onlypartially shared by ordinary Chinese many ofwhom, on the contrary, view dementia as anatural aspect of aging. Nevertheless theelderly seem less fearful and family membersless appalled by the prospect of dealing withdementia than is the case in countries like theUnited States. While high rates ofintergenerational co-residence and othersituational factors moderate the impact ofdementia and facilitate the delivery of care tothe demented, these facts alone areinsufficient to account for these differentresponses. Rather four cultural concepts: (1)the heart/mind, (2) the nature of morality, (3)the nature of the self, and (4) filial pietytaken together construct a distinctiveexperience of dementia in China that preservesthe self far longer and rewards the care-givermore profoundly than is the case in the UnitedStates.