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‘Memory Mate’ as Boundary Object in Cancer Treatment for Patients with Dementia

Authors: Rachel Hurdley, Jane Hopkinson


This article is based on observation of a cross-disciplinary, cross-institutional team that worked on an intervention called ‘Memory Mate’ for use in a UK Cancer Centre. This aimed to improve treatment outcomes for patients who had comorbid dementia or other memory impairment. Comorbid patients present ambiguous, spoiled identities, problematising the boundaries of health specialisms and frames of understanding. Memory Mate is theorised as a boundary object facilitating service transformation by changing relations between oncology and mental health care practice. It crosses the boundaries between oncology and mental health. Its introduction signifies an important step in reconfiguring relations between the specialisms. As a boundary object, it contains parallel, even contesting worlds, with potential to enable an eventual synthesis of the double stigma of cancer and dementia. Memory Mate comprises physical things, such as an animation, but its principal value is in the interaction it initiates across disciplines and services. It supports evolution of practices to address a newly emergent challenge for health service provision, namely the cancer patient with comorbid dementia/cognitive impairment. Getting clinicians from different disciplines working together on a practical solution generates a dialogue that can shift professional identity and change the culture of practice.

Keywords: Boundary object, cancer, dementia, interdisciplinary teams.

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