Part II: Alzheimer’s and Dementia Research

By: HarborView Senior Assisted Living

Thanks for joining us for part two 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 two of this series on available research related to dementia and Alzheimer’s, we will explore the elements of research. The most important components of research include the results and discussion, the research purpose and problem, reviewing the literature, protecting human subjects, variables, the method, and the analysis.

The research purpose explains why the study is being done. The research problem describes what is being studied as well as the population involved in the study. Research problems should be meaningful to the population being studied. An example of a research problem stated in the form of a question is: “what factors influence individuals to seek care when they suspect they might be suffering from alzheimer’s disease?”

A variable is defined as a factor that varies or takes on different values. In a research context, variables must be measurable and, in certain types of studies, must be able to be manipulated. The independent variable is the factor that is hypothesized to affect the dependent variable. The dependent or outcome variable is what a researcher is wanting to explain or understand further. For example, a study could look at the impact of family visits on quality of life of persons living with dementia in an assisted living or independent living community. In this example, family visits would be the independent variable and quality of life of those living in an elder care community would be the dependent or outcome variable. Extraneous, confounding, or uncontrolled variables are factors specifically in quantitative studies that can have an impact on the dependent variable. Operational definitions are clear explanations of how the primary variables will be seen and measured. For example, if two different memory care communities are being compared, it is important to have a clear and consistent definition for what makes a facility a memory care community.

Literature review helps form a knowledge base for what is already known about a specific topic. The goal of qualitative methods is to unearth a new perspective about a phenomenon, therefore, literature should not influence researchers undergoing a qualitative study. On the other hand, for quantitative studies, the existing literature will assist researchers in boiling down the research problem and identifying gaps in current knowledge. For example, after reviewing literature on Alzheimer’s disease or dementia investigators may discover a knowledge gap in alternative treatment options in memory care settings. Researchers then might develop and conduct a study exploring alternative treatment options for memory related diseases.

Whenever research involves human subjects, it is very important that that research be conducted ethically and that the rights of study participants be protected. The Belmont report highlighted three overarching principles for research that is ethical: beneficence, the right to full disclosure, and the right to fair treatment. In a memory care context, this might look like all study participants being fully informed and consenting to taking a particular medication that is being studied.

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, continue to explore the 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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