Open Access Research article

Experiences of dementia in a foreign country: qualitative content analysis of interviews with people with dementia

Monir Mazaheri123*, Lars E Eriksson245, Alireza Nikbakht Nasrabadi3, Helena Sunvisson6 and Kristiina Heikkilä27

Author Affiliations

1 School of Health, Care and Social Welfare, Mälardalen University, Box 325, 631 05, Eskilstuna, Sweden

2 Department of Neurobiology, Care Science and Society, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

3 Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

4 Department of Infectious Diseases, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden

5 School of Health Sciences, City University London, London, United Kingdom

6 School of Health and Medical Sciences, Örebro University, Stockholm, Sweden

7 Department of Health and Care Sciences, Faculty of Life and Health Sciences, Linnaeus University, Kalmar, Sweden

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:794  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-794

Published: 4 August 2014



Dementia is a worldwide health concern of epidemic proportions. Research in the field of subjective experience of dementia suffers from a lack of diversity of their participants including immigrants. Different portraits of life with dementia could help us understand how people with dementia conceptualise their experiences of dementia and how they live. Our study aimed to explore the subjective experiences of living with dementia among Iranian immigrants in Sweden.


Qualitative content analysis of interviews with fifteen people with dementia from Iranian immigrant backgrounds were conducted (8 females and 7 males).


Three themes and seven associated sub-themes were revealed. The themes included: Being a person with dementia means living with forgetfulness (personal sphere), living with forgetfulness in the private sphere means feeling incompetent but still loved, living with forgetfulness in the public sphere means feeling confident and secure but also isolated.


Living with dementia for the participants meant living with forgetfulness. They experienced feeling incompetent but still loved within their families and feeling confident and secure but also isolated in the society. Educating people with dementia and their families about the course and process of dementia may help them understand the changes better and adjust their expectations. Our study can provide a basis for healthcare workers to understand the experiences of living with dementia from this specific perspective.

Dementia; Experience; Qualitative studies; Semi-structured interview; Immigration; Iran; Sweden; Content analysis