Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Gerontology Institute

First Advisor

Candace L. Kemp

Second Advisor

Patrick J. Doyle

Third Advisor

Jennifer C. Morgan


This thesis focuses on direct care workers’ (DCW) interpretations of and responses to the behaviors and expressions of assisted living (AL) residents with dementia. Data are drawn from a five-year grounded theory study of AL residents’ care arrangements that involved interviewing, participant observation, and resident record review. This study analyzes data from a sub-sample of 29 residents living with dementia and their care network members from 7 diverse AL settings studied over 2 years. The aims are to: examine DCWs’ reactions to resident behaviors; and understand how and under what circumstances DCWs seek assistance from external network members. DCWs responses included being patient and working directly with residents to reaching out to others, especially in instances of perceived aggressive. Resident- and DCW-factors influenced staff perceptions and responses and were highly variable. Findings underscore the importance of enhanced dementia care training for DCWs and the value of family participation in care.