‘The monster in the back seat’

The metaphorical representation of dementia in Flemish blogs


  • Silke Creten KU Leuven
  • Priscilla Heynderickx KU Leuven
  • Sylvain Dieltjens KU Leuven




Dementia, stigmatisation, discourse analysis, blogs, conceptual metaphor, discourse representation


People living with dementia (PWDs) often experience stigma that is reinforced by negative representations of the condition in discourse. This paper addresses the lack of research into this stigma by analyzing the representation of the condition in naturally occurring texts of people in direct contact with PWDs. Two blogs from Flemish family caregivers and one blog from a Flemish health professional were selected based on word count and keyword relevance, and studied both quantitatively and qualitatively. For the quantitative analysis keywords, n-grams, and collocations were identified in 225 blog posts, using Sketch Engine. For the qualitative analysis, 26 blog posts were analyzed by categorizing conceptual metaphors according to their conceptual mappings. The quantitative analysis indicates that the health professional employs a different approach in reporting, compared to the family caregivers. The qualitative analysis results in five conceptual mappings: PWDs as living dead, PWDs as trees, dementia as concealment, dementia as an
acting entity and dementia as an attack. The frequency of these mappings shows that the condition is being dissociated from the PWDs, and described with more negative metaphors than the PWDs themselves.

Author Biographies

Silke Creten, KU Leuven

Silke Creten is working on a PhD in linguistics at KU Leuven (Belgium). In her research project, she looks into communication about dementia and communication with people living with dementia in Flanders, with an emphasis on the stigma surrounding the condition. Her research interests include discourse analysis, computational linguistics and sociolinguistics. 

Priscilla Heynderickx, KU Leuven

Priscilla C. Heynderickx (PhD) is currently an Associate Professor at KU Leuven (Belgium). She teaches Dutch and business communication. Her research interests include medical discourse, death discourse and business communication. She has published and presented several papers on these subjects. She is editor-in-chief of Ad Rem, a Belgian journal of business communication.

Sylvain Dieltjens, KU Leuven

Sylvain M. Dieltjens (PhD) is currently a Professor Emeritus at KU Leuven (Belgium). His research interests include medical discourse, death discourse and business communication. He has published and presented several papers on these subjects. He is also chairman of the board of the IBIS communications (Kortenberg, Belgium).


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How to Cite

Creten, S., Heynderickx, P., & Dieltjens, S. (2022). ‘The monster in the back seat’: The metaphorical representation of dementia in Flemish blogs. Communication and Medicine, 18(1), 51–65. https://doi.org/10.1558/cam.22492