Hill NL, Bratlee-Whitaker E, Wion RK, Madrigal C, Bhargava S, Mogle J. Factors that influence the emotional impact of memory problems in older adults: a qualitative descriptive study. Int J Older People Nurs. 2022 May;17(3):12439. doi: 10.1111/opn.12439

BACKGROUND: Associations among psychological health and memory concerns in older adults are well-established, but much of this research is quantitative.

OBJECTIVES: This study examined how memory problems influence emotional well-being in older adults without dementia, and whether this differs by cognitive status and current depressive or anxiety symptoms.

METHODS: A qualitative descriptive design was used to examine our research questions. Community-dwelling older adults without dementia (n = 49, Mage = 74.5[10.1], 63% women) completed a cognitive assessment, questionnaires and two semi-structured interviews. Content analysis was used to code and categorise the transcribed interview data, then identify themes within and across participant groups.

RESULTS: Five themes described the influence of memory problems on emotional well-being: Evoking Emotions, Fearing Future, Undermining Self, Normalising Problems and Adjusting Thinking. Memory problems' impact on emotional well-being varied by current anxiety symptoms, characteristics of the problem and personal experience with dementia.

CONCLUSION: The emotional impact of memory problems tended to differ by affective symptoms, not cognitive status. Older adults who report memory concerns without objective evidence of impairment may be at risk for negative impacts to mental health and well-being.

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