The spiritual lives of people living with dementia


Description of impact

The care and support of people living with dementia is one of the key medical, social and spiritual issues of our day. Whilst most of the focus and the majority of the funding goes into the thus far illusive search for cure, the most pressing need within society is for authentic understanding and effective communal care. This case study relates to Swinton’s work on dementia care, which has succeeded in the re-framing of dementia as part of the spiritual life of the community and has had impact on local government, caring agencies, third sector organisations, dementia care providers and religious communities in the United Kingdom and internationally.

Outcomes to Date / Future Developments

Swinton’s research has had transformative effects upon care for those with dementia in three principal ways.

Social care policy and practice
The research has had a clear impact on health and social care practice nationally and internationally. Alongside of the initiatives highlighted in section 2 (below), as a direct result of his work on dementia, Swinton was commissioned by Aberdeen’s Health and Social Care Partnership to review dementia services in Aberdeen and to develop new innovative modes of practice. His report was accepted by the Partnership in 2016. They described it as ‘excellent.’ Tom Cowan, then head of joint operations for Aberdeen City Health and Social Care Partnership’s (ACHSCP) states: ‘ Professor Swinton was invaluable … in all matters relating to the care of older people – particularly those affected by dementia. He was an invaluable resource and strongly influenced my thinking both in Aberdeen, but also here in Edinburgh where we are undergoing a whole-system transformation – based on the Three-Conversations Approach – which reshapes our whole approach to support around the individual. This was very much influenced by John Swinton’s work with us.’ (1) The report was formally launched by the Partnership at a select meeting of health and social care professionals in Aberdeen on December 13th 2017. It is now hosted and signposted on the website of Aberdeen Council of Voluntary Organisations (ACVO). (2) ACVO offers a wide range of services to support third sector organisations operating in Aberdeen. Policy and practice in Aberdeen and Edinburgh City Health and Social Care Services has been, therefore, changed by Swinton’s work which has brought about systematic transformation in provision.
Impact statusImpact Completed (Open)
Impact date20122022


  • Societal