Pronoun use during patient-caregiver interactions: Associations with caregiver well-being


Introduction:Caring for a spouse with dementia can be extremely challenging. Many caregivers experience profound declines in well-being; however, others remain healthy. Objective: This study determined whether the personal pronouns used in interactions between persons with dementia (PWDs) and their spousal caregivers were associated with caregiver well-being. Methods: Fifty-eight PWDs and their spousal caregivers engaged in a 10-min conversation about an area of disagreement in a laboratory setting. Verbatim transcripts of the conversation were coded using text analysis software, and caregivers and PWDs each received scores for (a) I-pronouns, (b) you-pronouns, and (c) we-pronouns. Caregivers' well-being was assessed using a composite measure of depression, anxiety, burden, and strain. Results: Results revealed that less use of we-pronouns by caregivers and PWDs and greater use of I-pronouns by PWDs were -associated with lower caregiver well-being. Conclusions: These findings indicate that less use of pronouns that refer to the couple (we-pronouns used by either partner) and greater use of pronouns that refer to the PWD (I-pronouns used by the PWD) are indicative of caregivers at heightened risk for lower well-being.

Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders