Do You Remember? How Caregivers Question Their Spouses Who Have Alzheimer’s Disease and the Impact on Communication This study examined the types of questions caregivers use and their outcomes when conversing with their spouse with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Of particular interest was caregivers’ use of yes-no and open-ended questions and the demands they make on the memory of the person with AD. It was hypothesized that communication ... Research Article
Research Article  |   February 01, 2005
Do You Remember? How Caregivers Question Their Spouses Who Have Alzheimer’s Disease and the Impact on Communication
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Jeff A. Small
    University of British Columbia, Vancouver
  • JoAnn Perry
    University of British Columbia, Vancouver
  • Contact author: Jeff A. Small, PhD, School of Audiology and Speech Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, 5804 Fairview Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z3, Canada.
    Contact author: Jeff A. Small, PhD, School of Audiology and Speech Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, 5804 Fairview Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z3, Canada.×
  • Corresponding author: E-mail: jsmall@interchange.ubc.ca
  • Joyce Harris served as a guest associate editor on this article.
    Joyce Harris served as a guest associate editor on this article.×
Article Information
Special Populations / Older Adults & Aging / Normal Language Processing / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   February 01, 2005
Do You Remember? How Caregivers Question Their Spouses Who Have Alzheimer’s Disease and the Impact on Communication
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 2005, Vol. 48, 125-136. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2005/010)
History: Received October 9, 2003 , Revised January 8, 2004 , Accepted June 29, 2004
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 2005, Vol. 48, 125-136. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2005/010)
History: Received October 9, 2003; Revised January 8, 2004; Accepted June 29, 2004
Web of Science® Times Cited: 25

This study examined the types of questions caregivers use and their outcomes when conversing with their spouse with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Of particular interest was caregivers’ use of yes-no and open-ended questions and the demands they make on the memory of the person with AD. It was hypothesized that communication between caregivers and their spouses would be more successful when caregivers used yes-no rather than open-ended questions; however, it was also predicted that a more positive communication outcome would occur when caregivers used open-ended questions that requested information from semantic rather than episodic memory. Eighteen caregivers and their spouses diagnosed with AD were audiotaped while they conversed for approximately 10 min on a topic of their choosing. The conversations were transcribed and coded according to the occurrence of questions, the type of question (yes-no, choice, or open-ended), the type of memory required to respond to a question (semantic or episodic), and the outcome of a response to a question (communication breakdown). The results indicated that caregivers used yes-no and open-ended questions to a similar extent, whereas episodic questions were used almost twice as frequently as semantic questions. Communication was more successful when caregivers used yes-no compared with open-ended questions and when questions placed demands on semantic rather than episodic memory. The findings from this study suggest that caregivers can reduce communication problems by avoiding the use of questions that depend on episodic memory. In addition, while yes-no questions were associated with more favorable outcomes than open-ended questions, the latter do not need to be avoided if they refer to information that draws only on semantic memory.

Acknowledgments
Portions of this research were presented at the 56th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, November 21–25, 2003, San Diego, CA. This study was supported in part by British Columbia Medical Services Foundation Grant BCM98-0020.
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