ABSTRACT

FAMILY TYPOLOGY AND HEALTH OUTCOME OF OFFSPRING OF ALZHEIMER'S PATIENTS
GRACE A. MUCCI, Ph.D.

California School of Professional Psychology at Alameda

Managing an elderly family member with a chronic progressive disease ideally involves the entire family. Significant practical and emotional demands are placed on family members impacting the health and well-being of all involved. Few studies have examined the impact of having an elder family member diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease (AD) on family members' health and well-being. Studies aimed at clarifying the ways in which family processes interact with individual family member's health and well-being are important for the designing of early intervention and prevention programs.
The objective of the current study was to explore the effects of managing a family member with AD on offspring utilizing archival data. Guided by the conceptual framework and family typology offered by Fisher and Ransom (in press) in which four family types were observed, eight family variables (Emotional Aversiveness, Avoidance/Distance, ProblemSolving Effectiveness, Orderliness, Organized Cohesiveness, Coherence, Life Engagement, and Religiousness) from 145 offspring cases were submitted to cluster analyses. Five distinct family types emerged from the data: Analytical, Balanced, Strained, Adaptive, and Religious.
The present study also investigated the health and well-being among offspring at one-year follow-up based upon membership in certain
family types. Overall, subjects were observed to have low, healthy levels of anxiety/depression, high perceptions of their own health, and few somatic symptoms. Utilizing an analysis of covariance (ANCOVA), significant interaction effects were found for health perceptions, with females from Analytical families reporting significantly higher health perception scores than their male counterparts. In terms of follow-up data, male offspring and Religious family members were less likely to complete measures at Time Two.
Sample and attrition characteristics that limit the present study's generalizability were discussed, as well as the subjective nature of cluster analysis. Future research suggestions include investigating cultural and gender differences among the family types and measuring use of social support as a mediating variable.