International Psychogeriatrics

Clinical Practice and Service Development

Facial Expressions of Patients With Dementia: A Comparison of Two Methods of Interpretation

Kenneth Asplund a1, Lilian Jansson a2 and Astrid Norberg a2
a1 Department of Nursing Science, University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway
a2 Department of Advanced Nursing, University of Umeå, Umeå, Sweden

Article author query
asplund k   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
jansson l   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
norberg a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Two methods of interpreting the videotaped facial expressions of four patients with severe dementia of the Alzheimer type were compared. Interpretations of facial expressions performed by means of unstructured naturalistic judgements revealed episodes when the four patients exhibited anger, disgust, happiness, sadness, and surprise. When these episodes were assessed by use of modified version of the Facial Action Coding System, there was, in total, 48% agreement between the two methods. The highest agreement, 98%, occurred for happiness shown by one patient. It was concluded that more emotions could be judged by means of the unstructured naturalistic method, which is based on an awareness of the total situation that facilitates imputing meaning into the patients' cues. It is a difficult task to find a balance between imputing too much meaning into the severely demented patients' sparse and unclear cues and ignoring the possibility that there is some meaning to be interpreted.