Part I: Alzheimer’s and Dementia Research

By: HarborView Senior Assisted Living

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 the first part of this series, we will explore the two main types of research: qualitative studies and quantitative studies. There is an increasing trend to use both qualitative and quantitative methods in the same study.

There are two primary types of research methods: quantitative methods and qualitative methods. Both qualitative and quantitative research methods are pertinent to the topic of memory care. Quantitative methods utilize the traditional scientific method. The traditional scientific method consists of pathways for controlling, collecting, analyzing and interpreting data about a specific topic. Qualitative methods are a little less cut and dry and are more broadly focused on generating new insights at the same time as collecting and analyzing information.

In quantitative research, the focus is on being objective and on measuring and controlling the experiment. For example, a quantitative research study could be a randomized controlled trial exploring the efficacy of a particular medication in a memory care patient population.

Nonexperimental studies and experimental studies are the two major types of quantitative research. Within these categories, there are three main types of quantitative research: descriptive studies, correlational studies, and experimental studies. Descriptive studies are utilized when the information about a specific topic is lacking. Results may explore an identified phenomenon and the connections between the variables of that situation. Correlational or association studies look at the connections between two or more variables and how strongly those connections might be related. An example of a correlational or association study could be exploring a particular type of dementia medication and the outcomes of the patients taking that medication. Experimental studies explore cause and affect to understand if a hypothesized correlation between variables is actually accurate. It is vital for the accuracy of experimental studies to have strict control of variables.

In qualitative research, the focus is on the full-orbed, holistic human experience. This type of research is limited to a specific context. For example, a qualitative research study could explore the holistic experience of Alzheimer’s patients being cared for at the Harbor View Senior Assisted Living community in Banker’s Hill.

There are four main qualitative methods of research: phenomenology, ethnography, grounded theory, and discourse analysis. The objective of phenomenology is to glean the meaning of daily experiences from the perspective of people who are living through those experiences. The goal of ethnography is to explain the practices, behavioral patterns and beliefs systems from the perspective of an individual from a particular culture or subculture. The grounded theory research method is used to come up with theories that enable practitioners to understand a particular psychological or social phenomenon. Discourse analysis explores language and communication in an attempt to understand the experiences or practices underlying participants’ lives. An example of this type of research in an elder care or memory care context could be studying how families of an independent living space resident respond differently to the term “BayView Senior Assisted Living Facility” as opposed to the term “BayView Senior Assisted Living Community.”

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 disease, elements of research, look into the application of methods to quantitative approaches, and learn how to evaluate the quality of research studies.

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