2.2. Outline the social model of dementia

2.2. Outline the social model of dementia

Dementia Awareness

Care Learning

6 mins READ

This guide will help you answer the NCFE CACHE Level 2 Award in Awareness of Dementia Unit 2.2. Outline the social model of dementia.

The social model of dementia views dementia through a lens focused on societal and environmental factors. It contrasts with the medical model, which primarily concentrates on the biological aspects and symptoms of dementia.

This model recognises that while dementia has a medical basis, the lived experiences of individuals are significantly shaped by social interactions, the environment, and community support.

Key Principles of the Social Model of Dementia

Person-Centred Approach

At the heart of the social model is the person-centred approach. This involves treating each person with dementia as an individual with their unique needs, preferences, and life history. It acknowledges their right to maintain their identity and dignity.

Practical Application: Care plans should focus on the individual’s desires, routines, and what brings them joy. Care workers should spend time understanding the person behind the diagnosis.

Environment and Living Conditions

The environment significantly impacts the well-being of individuals with dementia. The social model emphasises creating supportive and adaptable living environments that promote independence and safety.

Practical Application: Modify living spaces to reduce confusion and promote ease of movement. Use clear signage, good lighting, and contrasting colours to help with orientation.

Social Interaction and Community

Social isolation can exacerbate the symptoms of dementia. The social model stresses the importance of maintaining social networks and community involvement to support mental health and emotional well-being.

Practical Application: Encourage participation in social activities. Provide opportunities for meaningful engagement with family, friends, and community groups.

Differences from the Medical Model

Focus on Symptoms vs. Experience

The medical model treats dementia as a series of symptoms to be managed. In contrast, the social model looks beyond symptoms to understand how they affect the person’s quality of life and how social factors can mitigate these effects.

Example: Instead of solely using medication to manage agitation, the social model would explore possible social causes, like loneliness, and address those with social interventions.

Holistic Perspective

While the medical model might concentrate on diagnosis and treatment, the social model looks at the whole person, including emotional, social, and practical aspects of living with dementia. It aims to empower individuals rather than just treating the symptoms.

Example: A holistic approach might include therapy, social activities, and family support, alongside traditional medical treatments.

The Role of Carers and Care Workers

Carers and care workers play a pivotal role in the social model of dementia. Their attitudes and approaches can significantly affect the lived experience of individuals with dementia.

Training and Awareness

Care workers need training to understand dementia fully and appreciate the importance of social factors. This includes learning communication techniques tailored to individuals with dementia, such as speaking slowly, using simple sentences, and being patient.

Emotional Support

Emotional support from care workers is crucial. Empathy, patience, and understanding can help individuals with dementia feel valued and respected.

Practical Application: Regularly check in with how the person feels. Show empathy and provide reassurance during moments of confusion or distress.

The Importance of Advocacy

Advocacy ensures that the voices of those with dementia are heard, and their rights are upheld. The social model encourages advocacy at both individual and community levels.

Individual Advocacy

Care workers and carers should advocate on behalf of individuals with dementia, ensuring they receive the support and services they need.

Practical Application: Help individuals with dementia access social services, healthcare, and other necessary resources. Stand up for their choices and preferences.

Community and Policy Advocacy

Beyond individual advocacy, there is a need for broader advocacy to influence public policies and create dementia-friendly communities.

Practical Application: Engage in community initiatives that raise awareness about dementia. Support policies and practices that promote inclusivity and support for individuals with dementia.

Benefits of the Social Model

The social model of dementia has numerous benefits. It fosters a more inclusive and supportive environment for individuals with dementia, promoting better overall quality of life.

Enhanced Quality of Life

By considering the person’s holistic needs, the social model helps improve their overall well-being. It fosters environments where individuals with dementia can thrive rather than merely survive.

Example: A person with dementia may experience greater well-being through participation in familiar hobbies and social activities, rather than being confined to a clinical setting.

Reduced Stigma and Isolation

The social model encourages community engagement and awareness, helping to reduce the stigma associated with dementia. It highlights the potential for individuals with dementia to remain active and involved in their communities.

Example: Community programs that educate the public about dementia can lead to a more accepting and supportive community environment.

Challenges and Considerations

While the social model offers a comprehensive way of understanding dementia, it is not without challenges. Implementing this model requires resources, training, and a shift in societal attitudes.

Resource Allocation

Adequate resources are necessary to create supportive environments, train care workers, and provide social opportunities for individuals with dementia.

Example: Funding for community programs and adjustments in living environments can be difficult to secure but are essential for realising the full benefits of the social model.

Attitude Shifts

Changing societal attitudes and overcoming the deep-rooted medical model can be challenging. It requires education and continuous advocacy.

Example: Campaigns and educational programs can help shift public perception and encourage a broader acceptance of the social model of dementia.

Example answers for unit 2.2. Outline the social model of dementia

Example Answer 1

The social model of dementia focuses on the person, not just the symptoms of the illness. It considers their social needs, environment, and quality of life. As a care worker, I always try to understand each resident as an individual. For example, one of our residents loves painting. By providing her with art supplies and a quiet space to paint, we help her feel more like herself and improve her overall well-being. This approach helps maintain her identity and dignity.

Example Answer 2

Living conditions play a big role in how people with dementia experience their daily lives. In the social model, we try to make the environment as supportive as possible. In our care home, we use contrasting colours for doors and signs to help residents find their way around more easily. I also make sure their rooms are well-lit and free of clutter to reduce confusion. These small changes can make a huge difference in their daily lives.

Example Answer 3

Social interaction is essential for people with dementia. The social model encourages us to keep residents engaged and connected with others. I organise group activities like music sessions, gardening clubs, and exercise classes. These activities not only keep the residents active but also provide opportunities for socialising. For example, we have a weekly bingo night that everyone looks forward to. It’s a great way to build a sense of community among the residents.

Example Answer 4

The social model of dementia is different from the medical model, which focuses on treating symptoms with medication. Instead, we focus on improving quality of life through social means. For instance, if a resident is feeling anxious, I don’t just rely on medication. I also spend time talking to them, finding out if they are lonely or stressed, and try to involve them in activities they enjoy. This holistic approach can often alleviate their anxiety better than medication alone.

Example Answer 5

As a care worker, being empathetic and understanding is crucial. The social model of dementia teaches us to focus on emotional support. For example, if a resident is feeling confused or upset, I take the time to listen and offer reassurance. I make sure they know I’m there for them and that their feelings are valid. This kind of emotional support can make a significant difference in their mental well-being.

Example Answer 6

Advocacy is a big part of the social model of dementia. We need to ensure that the rights and needs of people with dementia are respected. In my role, I often help residents access the services they need, whether it’s healthcare, social activities, or family visits. I also participate in local initiatives to make our community more dementia-friendly. For example, I recently helped organise a workshop to educate local businesses on how to better support customers with dementia. This kind of advocacy helps create a more inclusive environment for everyone.

These examples show how the social model of dementia can be applied in everyday care to improve the lives of people living with dementia. It’s about seeing them as individuals and making small but meaningful changes to enhance their quality of life.


The social model of dementia offers a holistic and inclusive approach centred on improving the quality of life for individuals with dementia.

By focusing on person-centred care, supportive environments, and the importance of social interaction, this model addresses the broader aspects of the dementia experience.

Despite challenges, adopting the social model can lead to a more compassionate and effective way of supporting individuals with dementia, ensuring they live with dignity and respect.

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