Dementia and Epistemic Authority: A Conversation Analytic Case Study

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Rebecca Black


Imagine you have spent nearly all of the seventy years of your adult life being an organized and authoritative woman, raising three daughters, working as a clinical psychologist, maintaining many relationships and friendships. Now you’ve noticed more and more trouble remembering things, confusion about how to implement a plan or even what the right plan should be, even about things you know you used to do easily like shopping or making reservations. Imagine that, on top of all of this, one of those daughters you raised so competently is now sitting in front of you telling you that you’re so incompetent now that you don’t even know whether you’re capable of writing a letter to a friend. Recently, there has been much research applying the tools of discourse analysis to the talk of individuals with cognitive impairments (Cherney, Shadden, & Coelho, 1998). Many studies have examined the coherence, informational content, and topic management ability of older adults with various forms of dementia. In this case study I examine the interactions between a woman diagnosed with dementia of the Alzheimer’s type (DAT) and her daughter from a slightly different angle.

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APPLE Award Winning Papers in AL & TESOL