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3 patterns described the meaning of memory loss within everyday life for people with early Alzheimer disease

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K Parsons-Suhl

Dr K Parsons-Suhl, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada; karenp@mun.ca

QUESTION

What does the experience of memory loss mean to people with cognitive impairment and early Alzheimer disease?

DESIGN

Qualitative study using a Heideggerian hermeneutical phenomenological method.

SETTING

St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada.

PARTICIPANTS

12 people (age range 59–83 y, 75% women, Mini-Mental State Examination score range 20–28) who had acknowledged memory problems, probable early-stage Alzheimer disease or mild cognitive impairment, and could still tell a story.

METHODS

In individual interviews, participants were asked to tell a story about living with Alzheimer disease or mild cognitive impairment and prompted for details about memory loss. Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed verbatim, and analysed thematically.

MAIN FINDINGS

3 patterns with relational themes described the experience of memory loss. (1) Experiencing breakdown was described by 2 relational themes. Participants faced “awakening to breakdown” when they first noticed memory changes that were out of the ordinary; for some, this realisation led to feelings of terror and frustration. They often …

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