How do older people describe others with cognitive impairment? A multiethnic study in the United States

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2013-05-06

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Abstract

We studied how older people describe others with cognitive impairment. Forty-two focus groups represented African Americans, American Indians, Chinese Americans, Latinos, Vietnamese Americans, and Whites other than Latinos (Whites) (N=396, ages 50+), in nine locations in the United States of America. Axial coding connected categories and identified themes. The constant comparison method compared themes across ethnic groups. African Americans, American Indians and Whites emphasised memory loss. African Americans, American Indians, Latinos and Whites stressed withdrawal, isolation and repetitive speech. African Americans, American Indians, Vietnamese Americans and Whites emphasised 'slow thinking'. Only Whites described mood swings and personality changes. Many participants attributed dementia to stress. Terms describing others with dementia included 'Alzheimer's', 'dementia', 'senile' and 'crazy'. Euphemisms were common ('senior moment', 'old timer's disease'). Responses focused on memory, with limited mention of other cognitive functions. Differences among ethnic groups in descriptions of cognitive health and cognitive impairment underscore the need to tailor public health messages about cognitive health to ways that people construe its loss, and to their interest in maintaining it, so that messages and terms used are familiar, understandable and relevant to the groups for which they are designed. Health promotion efforts should develop ethnically sensitive ways to address the widely held misperception that even serious cognitive impairment is a normal characteristic of ageing and also to address stigma associated with cognitive impairment. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012.

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10.1017/S0144686X11001255

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Laditka, SB, JN Laditka, R Liu, AE Price, DB Friedman, B Wu, LL Bryant, SJ Corwin, et al. (2013). How do older people describe others with cognitive impairment? A multiethnic study in the United States. Ageing and Society, 33(3). pp. 369–392. 10.1017/S0144686X11001255 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/6218.

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Wu

Bei Wu

Consulting Professor in the School of Nursing

Bei Wu, PhD, is Pauline Gratz Professor of Nursing, Director for International Research at the School of Nursing, and a member of the Global Health Institute. She is also a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development. Dr. Wu’s areas of research expertise include aging and global health.

Dr. Wu received her M.S. and Ph.D. in gerontology from the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She is a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) and the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE). She is an internationally known expert on China’s long-term care policy and system development. She has worked closely with several schools of public health and schools of nursing in China on educational and research initiatives, such as conducting joint research projects, providing lectures, making presentations, and organizing professional conferences/training workshops. As the Principal Investigator, Dr. Wu has led many National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded projects on aging and health related issues including long-term care, dementia, caregiving, oral health, and health services utilization. She is also the Methods Core Director for the recently NIH-funded center on Adaptive Leadership in Symptom Science.


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