Understanding discrepancy in perceptions of values: individuals with mild to moderate dementia and their family caregivers

Gerontologist. 2011 Aug;51(4):473-83. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnr010. Epub 2011 Mar 7.


Purpose of the study: We explore discrepancies in perceptions of values and care preferences between individuals with dementia (IWDs) and their family caregivers.

Design and methods: We interviewed 266 dyads consisting of an individual with mild to moderate dementia and his or her family caregiver to determine IWDs' beliefs for 5 values related to care (autonomy, burden, control, family, and safety). We used multilevel modeling to investigate if there are dyadic level discrepancies in beliefs and what factors are associated with such discrepancies.

Results: Caregivers consistently underestimated the IWD's values for all five values. Discrepancies were associated primarily with caregivers' beliefs about the IWD's involvement in decision making. Race was also associated with the discrepancies for control and safety, whereas cognitive functioning of the IWD was associated with the discrepancy for burden.

Implications: Many caregivers do not have an accurate depiction of the IWD's values, yet, caregivers will become the surrogate decision makers for IWDs as dementia progresses. These findings indicate the need for assessments of values and preferences in care and to develop programs that assess values, consider the caregiver's beliefs about care, and improve communication within the dyad in the early stages of dementia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Comprehension
  • Decision Making*
  • Dementia / nursing*
  • Dementia / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Preference
  • Perception
  • Social Values*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires