Date of Award

Spring 2021

Degree Type



College of Nursing

Director of Thesis

Dr. Sue P. Heiney

First Reader

Dr. Brooke Patterson

Second Reader

Dr. Brooke Patterson


Background/significance Caregivers of individuals with dementia (e.g. Alzheimer’s Disease) may change their day-to-day life, especially self-care, to meet the needs of the person with dementia, which can be detrimental to their health. Caregivers for individuals with dementia experience both primarily negative and primarily positive effects on physical and mental health through exposure to the effects of dementia. Caregivers often report substandard self-care practices and unpleasant impacts on mental health. Others report notable beneficial influences within different aspects of their life. The positive effects have not been widely researched in literature.

Purpose The objective of this research study is to understand how caregivers of individuals with dementia change their day-to-day life due to the impact of caregiving in aspects including physical and mental health, in an effort to determine ways to enhance caregiver's coping methods and promote positive outcomes for both personal and professional caregivers.

Methods The general population included in this study are caregivers of individuals with dementia. To be included in the study, one must be (or previously have been) either a personal or professional caregiver of an individual with dementia, of any sex, over 18 years of age. Those who were excluded from this study included caregivers of non-dementia patients and caregivers under the age of 18. To understand the impact of caring for an individual with dementia, a qualitative research study was conducted to answer the research question “How does providing care for an individual with dementia affect how a caregiver changes their lifestyle?” The study was implemented as 2 follows: a sample of 16 caregivers participated in a qualitative interview process to provide insight into their personal opinions on how caregiving for an individual with dementia (personally, professionally, or voluntarily) affects or has affected their well-being. An interview process developed for the study was followed, which included demographic data and questions about the caregiver’s life and activities. Each interview lasted an average of between 15 and 30 minutes. The interviews were transcribed and cross-analyzed to search for the common themes of physical activity, eating habits and diet, spirituality, mental health, lifestyle, and outlook on life. Advice to enhance a positive experience for future caregivers, as well as additional resources that the participants think are necessary to improve the positive effects of caregiver, were also analyzed.

Results Although there was a prevalently negative impact on caregivers’ eating habits and mental health, each other category proved to be either neutral or positive. The category with the most positive outcome was outlook on life. Qualitative interviews disclosed the excessive levels of stress experienced by every caregiver of an individual with dementia, but in turn, each participant communicated the strategies they found to be effective to cope with the negative effects of caring for someone with dementia.

Conclusion Implications Those who care for individuals with dementia, whether on a personal or professional basis, must make sure to take care of their personal physical and mental health as well as that of their patients, to avoid the detrimental effects that caregiving for an individual with dementia ultimately have on a caregiver. The results of this research study can be used for a greater understanding of the impact of caregiving for individuals with dementia. Current and future caregivers can use the results of this study to recognize which aspects of their life that they 3 may need to focus more on while caregiving in order to stay healthy, and take the advice offered by the participants to promote an overall positive experience. Further research on how to improve the number of positive outcomes in each aspect of self-care for caregivers can be conducted based on the results of this study.

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