Conceptions of dementia in a multiethnic sample of family caregivers

W Ladson Hinton, Carol E. Franz, Gwen Yeo, Sue E. Levkoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


Understanding variability in conceptions of dementia in multiethnic populations is important to improve care and guide research. The objectives of this study were to describe caregiver conceptions of dementia using a previously developed typology and to examine the correlates of conceptions of dementia in a multiethnic sample. This is a cross-sectional study conducted in Boston and the San Francisco Bay area. Participants were a convenience sample of 92 family dementia caregivers from four ethnic/racial groups: African-American, Anglo European-American, Asian-American, and Latino. In-depth, qualitative interviews explored the caregivers' ideas about the nature and cause of dementia (i.e., explanatory models). Explanatory models of caregivers were categorized as biomedical, folk, or mixed (folk/biomedical). Quantitative analyses examined the association between ethnicity and other caregiver characteristics, and explanatory model type. Overall, 54% of caregivers, including 41% of Anglo European Americans, held explanatory models that combined folk and biomedical elements (i.e., mixed models). For example, many families attributed Alzheimer's disease and related dementias to psychosocial stress or normal aging. Ethnicity, lower education, and sex were associated with explanatory model type in bivariate analyses. In multiple logistic regression analysis, minority caregivers (P <. 02) and those with less formal education (P < .02) were more likely to hold mixed or folk models of dementia. Although minority and non-minority caregivers often incorporated folk models into their understanding of dementia, this was more common in minority caregivers and those with less formal education. Further research on cross-ethnic differences in a larger, more-representative sample is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1405-1410
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2005


  • Dementia
  • Ethnicity
  • Explanatory models
  • Health beliefs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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