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Understanding Risk and Harm Prevention from the Perspective of Cognitively Impaired Older Persons Who Live Alone and Their Caregivers: A Qualitative Study

The purpose of the study is to obtain an in-depth understanding of older adults with cognitive impairment who live alone and their caregivers’ concerns about safety, their feelings about what is necessary to prevent harm, and their preferences regarding what types of services are provided in the home. For purposes of this study, the “caregiver” is the family member, friend, or neighbour who is most familiar with the older person.

Health care professionals’ greatest concern about people with cognitive impairments who live alone is that their ability to care for themselves and avoid harm may be compromised due to self-neglect or disorientation resulting in injury or exploitation. Many professionals experience a conflict between wanting their patients to be in a safe environment and wanting to respect their rights to live where they choose. Little is known about the older adults’ and caregivers’ points of view with regards to risk. We are currently conducting individual in-depth interviews with older persons with cognitive impairments and with their caregivers. Data analysis involves an inductive, iterative, comparative approach to determine emergent ideas or categories from the data.

This research is funded by Alzheimer Society Canada and Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and is a partnership between the Arthritis Community Research & Evaluation Unit (ACREU) and Women’s College Hospital.

ACREU Investigators: Dr. Cheryl Cott (Co-PI)