Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 335–356 | Cite as

The role of religion and ethnicity in the help seeking of family caregivers of elders with Alzheimer's disease and related disorders

  • Sue Levkoff
  • Becca Levy
  • Patricia Flynn Weitzman


Stages of help seeking during illness have been identified as follows: disease experience, symptom attribution, decision to seek care, and contact with care providers. These stages have not been evaluated amongst family caregivers of elders affected with Alzheimer's disease and related disorders (ADRD). Since minority families typically care for ADRD elders at home, it seems important to understand the help seeking of minority family caregivers in particular, and the role of religious/ethnic factors. Thematic analyses were conducted on in-depth interviews from 10 caregivers from 4 groups (total n = 40): African-American, Chinese-American, Puerto Rican, and Irish-American. Aside from the disease experience stage, where religious/ethnic themes were negligible, between-group differences existed in these themes at other stages. For example, themes of extended family support emerged around decision making, with much between-group variation. At the contact with providers stage themes of contacting religious or ethnic service organizations were present, again with between-group variation. Chinese-American and Puerto Rican narratives contained themes of language barriers to care, and a lack of culturally-competent services. Both Irish-American and African-American narratives showed themes of alienation from religious groups on the one hand, and using prayer to cope on the other. Narratives from all groups contained themes of religious and/or ethnic imperatives for providing care. Overall, findings reveal that religious/ethnic factors may both aid and impede the help seeking of caregivers.

ADRD Care providers Dementia Ethnicity Religion 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sue Levkoff
    • 1
  • Becca Levy
    • 2
  • Patricia Flynn Weitzman
    • 1
  1. 1.Harvard Medical SchoolUSA
  2. 2.Yale University School of Public HealthUSA

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