Part IV: Alzheimer’s and Dementia Research

By: HarborView Senior Assisted Living

Thanks for joining us for Part IV of our series on dementia and Alzheimer’s research! If you or a loved one was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), you are probably experiencing a wide range of emotions. This is very normal and coming to a place of acceptance with a memory related diagnosis is always a difficult journey. Further along in the journey you might find yourself wanting to look into studies and relevant research to better understand this family of diseases. In this series, we will review some of the milestone studies related to Alzheimer’s disease, discuss types of research methods, discuss elements of research, and look into the application of methods to quantitative approaches. We will also explore how to evaluate research and identify the signs of a high quality study. Evidence-based care is a huge priority for us at Harbor View Senior Assisted Living (as well as at our sister sites, Mesa View Senior Assisted Living and Bay View Assisted Living) and we hope you will appreciate diving into the research with us!

In Part IV of this series on dementia and Alzheimer’s research, we will continue to explore the application of methods to quantitative and qualitative approaches. We will also explore aspects of data analysis and begin to touch on the process of evaluating literature.

Within the quantitative approach, there are two types of epidemiological studies that look at the connection between risk factors and a particular disease or health condition. These types of studies are cohort studies and case control studies. For example, investigators might be curious to explore the connection between sleep and Alzheimer’s or dementia. The relationship between these two variables could be explored by case control studies or cohort studies. A case control study might evaluate the life experiences of subjects with dementia compared with the life experiences or life events of a control group whose members do not have dementia. A cohort study would be similar except that it is usually following up on subjects who were in contact with or not in contact with a particular risk factor that is hypothesized to be connected to a particular health problem.

Reliability can be described as the consistency and precision of the data collection method. Validity refers to the accuracy and reality of the data. Both of these factors are extremely important in determining if research is high-quality or not. For example, if residents of an elder care community are filling out self report questionnaires however half of them do not understand the majority of the words in the questionnaire, this would bring into question both the reliability and validity of the study. It is vital that all results be reported. For example, if there is a randomized controlled trial of a particular Alzheimer‘s medication, all the results (even if some of the results indicated that the medication was not effective) must be reported for that study to be valid and reliable.

Qualitative approaches come up with data that is descriptive and include much more hypothesis and word for word accounts of participant interviews to support the researchers’ conclusions of the data. In quantitative studies on the other hand, the data is put into numerical terms in order to be analyzed. The results are shown in graphs and tables. Whether one is looking into research on dementia or Alzheimer’s disease that is qualitative or quantitative the results of the study should be concise, clear and matching the method implemented. Any incongruences or limitations of the research must be disclosed. In quantitative research it is imperative that control be implemented. Control is the process of eliminating the impact of all variables that could skew the conclusion of the study.

In the memory care setting, as in all healthcare settings, using research findings can be challenging for both investigators and practitioners. This process can go much more smoothly when practitioners and investigators work together.

We are committed to evidence-based care at Harbor View Senior Assisted Living (as well as at our sister sites, Mesa View Senior Assisted Living and Bay View Assisted Living) and being familiar with relevant research is an important part of the care we provide. Stay tuned for the following parts of this series where we will explore milestones in the research of Alzheimer’s, dementia and Louis body dementia, evaluate the quality of research studies, and how to apply findings to everyday life and practice.

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