Stigma, the medical model and dementia care: Psychological growth in senior health professionals through moral and professional integrity

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Minimal research explores the impact of a career in dementia care on senior health professionals. This study sought positive and negative subjective interpretations from seven senior health professionals regarding their experiences in dementia care. Data from semi-structured interviews were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). One superordinate theme, Honouring stigmatised self, overarched four sub-themes: Systemic stigma, Invalidated, Self-respect and Moral integrity and Growth. Stigma was interpreted as systemically entrenched minimisation of aged care and the aged-care workforce, including poor remuneration and training. Participants experienced peer invalidation particularly when attempting to resolve complex professional and moral challenges in dementia care. These often occurred in the context of efforts to individualise care, constrained within a medical model. Paradoxically, external invalidation motivated a search for redefining ‘self’ and moral integrity. By wisely acknowledging career experience, growthful domains of self-respect, optimism, humility and innovation defined professional practice and personal choices. Implications are discussed.

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