Social workers' and nurses' illness representations about alzheimer disease: An exploratory study

Shiri Shinan-Altman, Perla Werner, Miri Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Professionals' perceptions of patients' diseases (illness representations) are a major factor influencing the quality of treatment they provide. The aim of the study was to examine and compare Alzheimer disease (AD) illness representations among 2 main professional groups involved in the care of Alzheimer patients. A total of 327 nurses and social workers in Israel were asked to report their cognitive representations (dimensions of identity, cause, timeline, consequences, control, coherence, timeline cycle) and emotional representations. Knowledge about AD, demographic, and occupational characteristics were also obtained. Participants perceived AD as a chronic disease associated with severe consequences. Statistically significant differences were found between the groups, as nurses attributed psychological reasons to AD more than the social workers. Nevertheless, social workers perceived AD as more chronic with severe consequences compared with the nurses. Despite some resemblance, there were differences between the social workers and nurses regarding AD illness representations. Therefore, continuing to distribute materials to professionals regarding AD is recommended, with attention to the unique characteristics of each professional group. Furthermore, the findings encourage the development of training and support programs that will not only deal with the organizational and instrumental levels of treating AD patients but also with the assessment and consequences of professionals' illness representations.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)73-78
Number of pages6
JournalAlzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • illness representations
  • nurses
  • social workers

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Gerontology


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