The Power of Positive Psychology in Caring for Those with Dementia

positive psychology

Herbert “Buddy” Coard III, Ed.D., Psychologist with Renown Behavioral Health, recently gave a lecture about helping those with dementia flourish through the power of positive psychology. Here are his top takeaways and also ways to model this practice.

We’ve likely all heard about the power of positivity — that thinking positively can actually have an observable impact on outcomes, either in our personal or professional lives. Herbert “Buddy” Coard III, Ed.D., Psychologist with Renown Behavioral Health, recently gave a Renown-sponsored lecture about positive psychology, defined as “… the scientific study of what makes life most worth living” and also how it pertains to dementia.

The presentation, called the “Positive Psychology and Dementia Lecture,” helped those in attendance understand how to maintain a positive outlook on life if you’re faced with an unexpected diagnosis of dementia. He also talked about how this approach plays an important factor into overall health and happiness.

In this lecture, he first suggested that statistical data spanning 50 years shows that populations increasingly value aspirational goals related to social wellbeing and also happiness. Additionally, he posits that positive psychology has much to offer in terms of understanding how human flourishing develops in conditions of environmental adversity.


Similarly, he offered that in terms of personal well-being, the following are critical:

  • Healthy life expectancy
  • Perceived social support
  • Trust
  • Generosity
  • Freedom to make life decisions
  • Fairness
  • Environment

Income is relevant, he adds, but not of highest importance.

“Humans experience increased wellbeing,” Dr. Coard suggests, “when they feel part of a meaningful whole for which they share responsibility. These are the important underpinnings for happiness and coping well when adverse circumstances are experienced.”

How to Practice Positive Psychology

He offers that practicing this way of thinking — no matter your circumstance — is what makes life most worth living. Framing people with dementia as active in facing and fighting their illness suggests that they may also be active in the process of hoping rather than passively waiting for a cure, or succumbing to despair.

“Accepting dementia as a part of one’s life appears to be key in learning to live with this condition,” Dr. Coard says. “And, in turn, maintaining hope has been described as key to acceptance as it can allow people to focus on upholding meaning and purpose in their lives rather than dwelling exclusively on their illness.”

Dr. Coard’s lecture was just one of a series of free and open-to-the-public presentations on topics of diverse interest. For those who are remote or unable to attend in person: Video-enabled attendance is also available. Interested parties can access remotely and join from any video-enabled device (smart phone, iPad, laptop, and also webcam/desktop).

If you or a family member has concerns about memory loss or other symptoms of Alzheimer’s, it is important to be evaluated by a neurologist. To find a Neurologist: Call Renown’s Institute for Neurosciences at 775-982-2970. Additionally, Renown offers a monthly support group for dementia caregivers. Call 775-982-7787 to RSVP.

Renown Behavioral Health | 775-982-5318

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