Using the life course perspective to study the entry into the illness trajectory: The perspective of caregivers of people with Alzheimer's disease
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The research community is showing increasing interest in the analysis of the care trajectory of people with chronic health problems, especially dementias such as Alzheimer's disease. However, despite this interest, there is little research on the initial phases of the care trajectory. The fact that the first symptoms of dementia are generally noticed by those surrounding the elderly person suggests that the recognition of the disease is intimately linked to interactions not only amongst family members but also amongst friends, neighbours and health professionals. This study focuses on the period beginning with the first manifestations of cognitive difficulties and ending with the diagnosis of Alzheimer-type dementia. Interviews with 60 caregivers in Montreal, Canada were used to reconstruct how older people with Alzheimer-type dementia enter into the care trajectory. Our methods consisted of the analysis of social networks, social dynamics and action sequences. Our findings are presented in the form of a typology comprised of 5 pathways of entries into the care trajectory that are structured around the following four principles of the Life Course Perspective: family history, linked lives, human agency and organisational effects. We believe that analyses of the initial phases of the care trajectory, such as this one, are essential for the application of effective early detection and intervention policies. They are also central to informing future studies that seek to understand the care experience in its entirety.
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