The lived experience of Quality of Life (QOL) in relation to dementia progression

Scanlon, Helen
The lived experience of Quality of Life (QOL) in relation to dementia progression. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Measuring the quality of life (QOL) of individuals who live with long-term health conditions and illnesses has become more important in the absence of cure (Department of Health [DoH], 2013). Dementia is an intractable, progressive and terminal illness and recent research from the Alzheimer’s Society (2012) has highlighted that a large proportion of those with dementia report that they do not live well with dementia and indicates the impact of this on QOL. Historically, there was an assumption that individuals living with dementia, due to their cognitive impairment, were unable to comment and talk about their QOL, however more recent research has shown that this is not the case (Woods, 2012). There are a number of ways in which QOL can be explored. For example, a number of scales have been developed which can collect information through a variety of methods including: self-report (e.g., Dementia Quality Of Life: Brod, Stewart, Sands, & Walton, 1999), report by-proxy (e.g., Alzheimer’s Disease Health-Related Quality Of Life: Rabins, Kasper, Kleinman, Black, & Patrick, 1999), observational (e.g., Dementia Care Mapping: Kitwood & Bredin, 1992) or through a combination of such methods. Quality of life is highly subjective and this poses challenges for the collection of information about QOL. Numerous studies have highlighted the discrepancy between self-report and proxy report QOL scores (for a review see Ettema et al., 2005), and difficulties with observational methods such as observer bias are evident. Such observations suggest that self-report, where possible, is the gold standard for the measurement of QOL (Cahill & Diaz Ponce, 2011), although this is also not without difficulty (Ettema et al., 2005). Self-report scales of QOL for those living with dementia certainly have their utility; however, the application of such scales for those with advanced dementia seems variable. This may partly be due to the loss of verbal communication and understanding (Johnson et al., 2009). This is further explored as the main focus of the narrative review which discusses and critiques the body of research which has been published in the last ten years which has focused on the self-report of QOL. The studies reported in the review; three quantitative articles and three qualitative articles discuss different methods for the collection of information regarding QOL from those individuals living with dementia. Findings from the review suggest that whilst self-report scales for QOL can be highly useful and effective, it seems their most effective use is with individuals who have mild to moderate dementia (Karim, Ramanna, Petit, Doward, & Burns, 2008; Trigg, Jones, & Skevington, 2007a; Trigg, Skevington, & Jones, 2007b). Some studies included in the review reported the inclusion of participants with advanced dementia. However, it would seem that participants with advanced dementia are more likely to struggle answering some questions, leading to missing values: a similar observation was reported by Ettema et al. (2005). The review highlights, therefore, the growing need for accurate self-report measurement of QOL for those with advanced dementia. The qualitative studies reviewed indicated that interviews employing semi-structured or unstructured frameworks could be successful in gaining meaningful information from those living with advanced dementia about their QOL (Clare, Rowlands, Bruce, Surr, & Downs, 2008; Cahill & Diaz-Ponce, 2011). It seemed as though there were numerous advantages from using a qualitative method for collecting information from those living with dementia, and therefore this was the methodology adopted in the study. The empirical study invited participants to think about their QOL in the context of their diagnosis of dementia and to also consider their expected future QOL in light of advancing dementia. Given some of the challenges of communication from those with advanced dementia, the study recruited those with mild to moderate dementia to think about the future. Thinking about the future of dementia was anticipated to be highly emotive and potentially very distressing for participants, therefore through the use of one-to-one interviews, participants could be asked difficult and challenging questions sensitively. Participants described factors which impacted on their QOL such as reciprocal relationships, impact of skill loss and being supported by relatives. However, thinking about the future seemed more challenging for the participants. Some participants did express fear and uncertainty when asked to think about the future, and this was something that the majority of participants did not want to do. However, some participants expressed difficulties which their spouse or partner had when it came to considering the future and the terminal nature of the dementia. For some participants, having such conversations may be important and not doing so could be detrimental to QOL. This was discussed in the professional report for healthcare professionals, amongst other recommendations and clinical implications from the findings of the current study. Perhaps some of the fear and uncertainty generated by thinking about the future in terms of dementia, which the participants expressed, was related to stigma and misperceptions about dementia. There is little research on the impact of stigma for those living with dementia (Mukadam & Livingston, 2012), most of the research is focused on psychosis (schizophrenia) and therefore, exploring stigma in the context of dementia was considered as a direction for future research. In the Dementia Strategy, the DoH (2009) drew attention to stigma and the social awareness of dementia; this has remained a matter of interest for the current government, reflected in multimedia advertising and other campaigns. Future research based on the findings of the current study, might focus upon ways in which stigma and the misperceptions about dementia could be further explored.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy)
Additional Information: Date: 2013-09 (completed)
Subjects: ?? RC0321 ??
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Institute of Population Health
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 12 Feb 2014 12:15
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2022 04:40
DOI: 10.17638/00013473