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  2. “Just a Heads Up, My Father Has Alzheimer’s”: Changes in Communication and Identity of Adult Children of Parents with Alzheimer’s Disease

“Just a Heads Up, My Father Has Alzheimer’s”: Changes in Communication and Identity of Adult Children of Parents with Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60–80 percent of cases. The disease causes devastating impairment and often loss of cognitive and relational functioning for the individual and creates disorder and chaos for the family system. Even when not stepping into the formal role of caretaker, children of parents with Alzheimer’s disease experience increased vulnerability to physical and psychological illness, changes in family roles, and uncertainty about navigating a relationship with a parent they no longer know. In the present study, I sought to understand, through the lens of identity and identity-work, how adult children of parents with the disease perceived that their communication with and about the parent changed. Data from interviews with 12 adult children, none of whom were formal caregivers to their parents with the illness but all reported experiencing shifts in their identity and roles as a child of a parent with the disease, revealed four significant communication changes: communicating with a parent who was the same but different, communicating in multiple roles, correcting or reprimanding the parent, and managing parent’s private information. I discuss these findings, their implications, practical suggestions from the data, and suggested areas of future research.

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Key Information

Type of Reference
Jour
Type of Work
Journal article
Publisher
Taylor & Francis
ISBN/ISSN
1041-0236
Publication Year
2020
Issue Number
1
Journal Titles
Health Communication
Volume Number
35
Start Page
119
End Page
126