An Appalachian Perspective of Alzheimer’s disease: A Rural Health Nurse Opportunity


Predictions of the devastating impact of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are heightened in disadvantaged rural populations, yet studies investigating AD in this population are limited. Other researchers have shown that when rural Appalachian people are aware of their risk for a chronic illness, they are more willing to adopt healthy behaviors (Della, 2011; Schoenberg et al. 2011), suggesting that educational programs to increase knowledge and perception of risk are needed. The purpose of this article is to report findings from exploring knowledge of Alzheimer’s disease in a southern rural West Virginia community of residents (N = 193) and a sample of caregivers (n = 20) using cognitive interview techniques of “Think-aloud” and “Laddering”. The cultural fit and relevance of the “Knowledge of Alzheimer’s Disease scale or KAD (Jang, Kim, Hansen, & Chiriboga, 2010) was also examined. Findings from the KAD included that an updated AD measure appropriate for use in rural settings is needed. Findings from the cognitive interview included that instead of fatalistic attitudes toward Alzheimer’s disease, residents often viewed AD as something potentially preventable through healthier living, use of herbs as children, and eventual discovery of more effective treatment regimens. The themes that emerged were “preventing AD” and “personal knowing of AD”. Considering cultural perceptions and determining knowledge gaps in the communities by rural providers is an important component of changing stigma regarding routine cognitive screening for rural older adults at increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease.


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