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2009 Grants - Savundranayagam
Caregiver Communication Strategies: Implications for Relational Outcomes
Marie Savundranayagam, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee
2009 New Investigator Research Grant
Alzheimer's disease is an exponentially growing social and health care challenge that is likely to overwhelm social, public policy and medical care systems of the United States in the future. Family members bear the primary responsibility for caring for individuals with Alzheimer's. Second in prevalence to the hallmark memory problems are communication problems, which often lead to breakdowns in information exchange and create challenges for long-standing familial relationships.
Current evidence shows Alzheimer-related communication problems can precipitate challenging behaviors (e.g., aggressiveness, agitation, etc.), which have consistently been linked with caregiver stress and premature institutionalization of individuals with Alzheimer's. However, given that communication is a complex, interactive process, communication breakdowns can also result from caregivers' use of ineffective communication strategies that they perceive to be helpful. Little is known of the role of caregiver communication strategies in resolving communication breakdowns, reducing distress associated with behaviors and reducing caregiver stress.
Marie Savundranayagam, Ph.D., and colleagues aim to identify communication strategies used by caregivers to resolve communication breakdowns, to assess the effectiveness of these strategies and to investigate the differential impact of effective vs. ineffective strategies in predicting appraisals of challenging behaviors and caregiver stress. The study will use both survey data and empirically-based videotaped conversations between caregivers and individuals with Alzheimer's. Conversation analyses will be used to identify and assess the effectiveness of caregiver communication strategies in resolving breakdowns.
The proposed study's focus on caregivers' use of communication strategies addresses a significant gap in our current understanding of the mechanisms by which communication breakdowns lead to challenging behaviors and caregiver stress. The findings will help lay the foundation and justification for designing communication interventions for family caregivers.