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Behav Ther. 2011 Mar;42(1):42-6. doi: 10.1016/j.beth.2010.03.003. Epub 2010 Oct 1.

Linking resident behavior to dementia care communication: effects of emotional tone.

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University of Kansas School of Nursing, Kansas City, KS 66160, USA.


Care for older adults with dementia is complicated by behaviors such as verbal and physical aggression and withdrawal that disrupt and increase the costs of providing care. These behaviors, referred to as resistiveness to care (RTC), have been linked to staff elderspeak communication, measured by behaviorally coded explicit behaviors. This study examined videotapes of nursing home (NH) residents with dementia interacting with staff during bathing to explore the relationships between implicit messages communicated by nursing staff and resident RTC behavior. Implicit messages in nursing staff communication were rated using the Emotional Tone Rating Scale by naïve coders. Associations between implicit ratings of care, respect, and control were analyzed in relation to RTC scale scores. Highly controlling communication was significantly correlated with increased resident RTC (r=.49, p<.05). Associations between the care and respect dimensions of communication were not significantly correlated with RTC; however, trends in hypothesized directions were identified. The association between emotional tone and RTC found in this study suggests that it is an important factor in care. Understanding affective messages is a first step in modifying these implicit messages conveyed during staff-resident communication. Research is needed to confirm these findings and to identify and test interventions to teach staff to reduce controlling messages that will to reduce RTC and improve care.

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