Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award

December 1989


The problem of this study was to identify and describe the individual learning activities of caregivers of people with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and to develop an analytical description of the patterns of learning of these adults. An instrument was not available for use; therefore, a focused interview guide was developed. The interview guide was developed through consultation with several spouses or adult children caring for Alzheimer's patients, professionals in the health care field, and a review of the literature. The major analysis procedure for the study was the constant comparative method, an inductive method that has been used most systematically by Glaser and Strauss (1967). Grounded theory is discovered or generated from data. It is developed by entering the field work phase without a hypothesis, describing what happens, and formulating explanations as to why it happens. Five research questions were explored dealing with the caregiver's support system, reasons for seeking medical help, learning at the time of the diagnosis, learning activities, and learning patterns. Caregivers, as adult learners, showed the capacity to conduct self-directed learning activities. While the content was greatly determined by the patient's progression of the disease, caregivers identified six learning processes: (a) professionally guided, (b) informal conversation, (c) observation, (d) solving problems, (e) change in perspective, and (f) facilitating understanding for others. The informal support system was significant in providing information to caregivers. Sixty percent of the friends and 50.5% of the family provided information, resources, and discussion. An extensive informal support system showed a greater use of a problem solving process.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted