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The Experience of Living Alone With Early Stage Alzheimer's Disease: What Are the Person's Concerns?


Feature Topic: Hearing and Healing the Hurts of Dementia, Part I

The number of older adults with Alzheimer's disease (AD) living alone continues to increase, yet this group is often overlooked; particularly missing is the perspective of the person living alone. This qualitative study conducted in-depth interviews with 15 people with AD living alone. The study identified a typology of 4 types, explaining how individuals with AD approach living alone: “Making it on my own,” “Living on the edge,” “Unaware of the situation,” and “With a little help from my friends.” Common themes related to issues of dependency, driving, decision making about the future, increasing social withdrawal, and coping strategies are also discussed.

Phyllis Braudy Harris, PhD, LISW, ACSW, is Professor and Chair of the Sociology Department, and Director of the Aging Studies Program at John Carroll University, Cleveland, Ohio. Her research is on understanding the psychosocial impact of a dementing illness on family members and persons living with the disease. She has published 2 books, written numerous articles in leading gerontology journals, and has presented her work nationally and internationally. She is also the coeditor of Dementia: The International Journal of Social Research and Practice.

Address correspondence to: Phyllis Braudy Harris, PhD, LISW, ACSW, Department of Sociology, John Carroll University, University Heights, Cleveland, OH 44118. E-mail:

This study was supported by a summer faculty research grant from John Carroll University. The author gratefully acknowledges the support and assistance of the Cleveland Area Alzheimer's Association, especially Sally Ollerton and Marty Kelly. Of invaluable assistance was Nyree Hulme, who transcribed all the interviews. Also, the author thanks all the participants who gave their time and permission to be interviewed.

©2006Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.