Date of Paper

5-2012

Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)

Department

Social Work

First Advisor

Jessica Toft

Abstract

While the importance of cultural sensitivity has been actively researched in healthcare settings, there is little research about the importance of culture as it relates to people with Alzheimer’s disease. As the most common cause of dementia, there are currently over 5 million Americans over the age of 65 who are believed to have AD and is it expected to increase to over 15 million by 2050. Previous social work research has revealed two major themes in the study of caregiving and Alzheimer’s disease: 1) importance of a familiar environment and 2) management of aggressive responses, both of which factors into a persons’ quality of life. This research was designed to discover in what ways is cultural competence important to providing care for and improving the quality of life of a person with Alzheimer’s disease? Seven professionals working in a nursing home’s Alzheimer’s unit participated in the qualitative study. The study included offsite interviews where participants completed a self-reflection questionnaire and recorded interviews which were then transcribed for the research. Several themes emerged from the study. Six out of seven professionals interviewed believe that cultural competence was important to providing care and the quality of life demonstrated through communication barriers, dependence on family, diet, trust, Resident advocacy, inter-staff relations and sense of community. The results of this study suggest that the cultural sensitivity of care providers plays a direct role in maintaining the quality of life for those living with Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, a lack of cultural sensitivity can lead to frustrated Residents, exclusion, aversion to standard care and poor nutrition. More research is needed to understand to what extent culture influences aggressive responses and overall quality of life.

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