Aims of the paper. This paper examines the care provision for people suffer
ing from dementia and explores the potential benefits associated with an ap
proach to care that emphasizes the importance of relationships.
Background. Recent research findings have provided an incentive to re-evalu
ate the established approaches to care for this client group. Two separate
studies identified education and intellectual stimulation as important dete
rminants of the onset of Alzheimer's disease (Ott et al. 1995, Snowdon et a
l. 1996). These findings have encouraged the hypothesis that potential symp
tomatic benefits may be achieved by providing a more stimulating environmen
t for people with dementia.
Methods. A case study is outlined which illustrates an approach to caring i
nfluenced by the Continental philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas. Primacy is give
n to the relationships that make up caring, and not to a method that sets o
ut to achieve an identified objective. The issue of mutual responsibility w
ithin the provision of care is highlighted in the case study.
Findings. The hypothesis presented in this paper is that a person has more
of an opportunity to develop to the limits of their potential by establishi
ng the importance of relationships in providing care by means of education
and training of the people involved. The beneficiaries might be the caregiv
er or the person in receipt of care.
Conclusions. An environment that attempts to educate people to recognize th
e importance of relationships will be more effective in achieving the poten
tial benefits of symptom alleviation identified by the research into Alzhei
mer's disease outlined in this paper.