Visual Communication to Improve Relationship Quality in Spousal Caregivers of Individuals With Alzheimer's Disease

Visual Communication to Improve Relationship Quality in Spousal Caregivers of Individuals With Alzheimer's Disease

Nola Freeman
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7122-3.ch004
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The study investigated the effectiveness of an art therapy intervention in improving relationship quality of spousal caregivers and their spouses with Alzheimer's Disease (AD). Two single case studies were conducted, each composed of a caregiver and spouse with AD. Intervention consisted of three art therapy sessions based on visual communication, or the mutual creation of artwork. Relationship quality was measured throughout the study using clinical notes, pretest and posttest, and caregiver daily reports of positive interactions with their spouse. Couple dynamics were found to influence how positively each art therapy directive was viewed; however, both caregivers noted valuing art therapy interventions for providing recreation and socialization. The intervention resulted in increased positive interactions in both case studies.
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The Caregiving Relationship

Relationships with individuals with AD were found to fall within three categories: continuous, continuous but transformed, or radically discontinuous (Chesla, Martinson, & Muwaswes, 1994). In continuous relationships, individuals with AD were seen as representing the same identity throughout the disease. The relationship was perceived as unchanged, and patterns of behavior were seen as continuous with past behaviors. If relationships were continuous but transformed, the individual was perceived as transformed by the disease; however, the caregiver was still dedicated to maintaining their relationship. Those with a radically discontinuous relationship saw the individual as discontinuous from the person they once knew. Those in discontinuous relationships became emotionally detached and were most likely to discontinue providing care, or continued to provide care at a lower quality (Williamson & Schaffer, 2001).

Although many caregivers come to view the individual with AD as separate from their previous identities, one study found it was possible with intervention to aid the caregiver in forming a new perspective (Quayhagan & Quayhagan, 1996). Exercises for the caregiver and spouse with AD were provided to increase positive interaction through a variety of games aimed at increasing memory. Caregivers in the study came to view their spouse as more congruent with their past identity after the exercises revealed their spouse’s dormant abilities, which resulted in greater relationship satisfaction.

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