Dementia

Confusion at the borderlands of aging and madness

Authored by: Jesse Ballenger

The Routledge History of Madness and Mental Health

Print publication date:  April  2017
Online publication date:  April  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138781603
eBook ISBN: 9781315202211
Adobe ISBN: 9781351784399

10.4324/9781315202211.ch16

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Abstract

Of all the major categories of mental illness, indeed of illness of any kind, dementia may best illustrate the famous dictum of historian Charles Rosenberg that “In some ways disease does not exist until we have agreed that it does, by perceiving, naming, and responding to it.” 1 Everything we know about the natural history of age-associated progressive dementia suggests that it has always been part of human experience, yet only in the modern era has it been regarded as a disease, and only in the last half of the twentieth century as a major public health issue. These dramatic changes in how dementia has been conceptualized by medicine were driven by a broader transformation in the social and cultural history of aging.

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