African Americans and dementia: Culturally informed research

Kalisha Bonds, Ph.D., M.S.N.

African Americans have a greater risk of dementia than white and non-white Hispanic populations, yet the bulk of dementia research has not explicitly examined African Americans or the heterogeneity of the overall African American population. Kalisha Bonds, M.S.N., P.M.H.N.P.-B.C., Ph.D. candidate in the School of Nursing, is examining the relationships of individuals with dementia and their care partners in the diverse subpopulations of African Americans.

The In the Lab series looks at the people who help make OHSU such a vibrant research institution. In each post, researchers and clinician scientists describe their current work and life as researchers.

What are you working on and why is it important?

I am working on my Ph.D. dissertation, which is focused on understanding decision-making and the use of formal medical care by African American dementia dyads, or people with dementia and their care partners. I’m investigating how these factors, influence quality of life, considering culture and heterogeneity.

There are at least two ways in which African American dyads—people with dementia and their care partners—tend to differ from other populations. First, African Americans are less likely to seek formal medical care, resulting in delays in diagnosis and treatment. Second, the dynamic of the person with dementia and their care partner tends to include shared decision making. Not including the individuals with dementia in early decision-making could limit our understanding of how to intervene to improve health outcomes for both the person with dementia and their care partner.

What’s been your most exciting discovery?

My most exciting discovery has been identifying significant heterogeneity, or diversity in background and culture, within my sample of African American dementia dyads. Within these different subgroups, I hope to identify characteristics that differentiate them from one another. This knowledge may support the creation of tailored interventions to improve health outcomes, including quality of life.

What’s your day-to-day life as a researcher look like?

My day-to-day varies but mainly consists of four things: meetings with my chair and/or committee members, data analysis, recruitment/data collection and writing/revising manuscripts. While I have completed my coursework, I could not be successful in this program without the support of my dissertation chair, Dr. MinKyoung Song, and committee members, Drs. Jeffrey Kaye and Karen Lyons. I have meetings via face-to-face, email and/or video conferencing to make sure I am “on track” with my research studies.

Right now, I am completing what’s called a manuscript dissertation. The manuscript option dissertation requires three manuscripts with one accepted by a peer-reviewed journal before graduation. One of my manuscripts—a literature review of formal care use by African American people with dementia and their caregivers—has been published in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing. So I’ve met that requirement.

I recently received IRB approval for my second manuscript. The IRB, or Institutional Review Board, reviews and approves all research involving human subjects to make sure that it is conducted in accordance with all federal, institutional and ethical guidelines. So, now I am beginning to recruit participants for the study and purchasing materials for data collection. For my third manuscript, I am using secondary data, which means I must review the data to make sure it is correct and consistent and then modifying, or cleaning, such as recoding variables or removing cases that do not meet my inclusion criteria. I have been working on data cleaning and analysis over the last 2 months. My analysis has recently been completed. Now, I can begin writing the Results and Discussion section of the manuscript. I’m busy and loving it!

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One response to “African Americans and dementia: Culturally informed research

  1. Thank you so much for your research. Our community often puts off medical advice and intervention let alone the stigma associated with mental illnesses. I appreciate your focus and hopefully it will help the medical community cater to African American populations in regards to this issue.

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