Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
With the aging of the Baby Boomer generation there will be an influx of older adults in the years to come that has never been witnessed before. While a longer life brings with it many opportunities, they are dependent on one thing: the individual’s health. Of the top five chronic conditions that many older adults may face in their lifetime, Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias are of most concern since they are defined by decline in cognitive functions that lead to loss of independence. As rates of dementia climb and no cure in site, interventions are needed to help aid in the wide-ranging impact dementia will have on the individual, their caregivers, and their community as a whole. One area of promise is the use of language training procedures to address areas of concern for older adults. Relational Frame Theory (RFT), a contemporary behavior-analytic account of complex human language and cognition, offers a behavior-oriented interpretation of memory and factors that may lead to a better understanding of dementia. With the basic theory provided by RFT, researchers are now provided the tools to understand more thoroughly the processes underlying memory and applying them to better understand human suffering and ways to eliminate it. This series of two studies aims to add to the understanding of human suffering by examining the relationship and effects of relational training procedures on memory, dementia symptomology, and derived relational in older adults. Study 1 examined the relationship between dementia symptomology, memory, and derived relational responding. Results of this study suggest that individuals with higher levels of dementia show lower levels of memory and derived relational responding. Study 2 evaluated the effects of relational training procedures on dementia symptomology, memory, and derived relational responding in a randomized control trial. The results suggest that participants in the relational training group had greater gains in derived relational responding as compared to the control group, while similar gains were found in memory for both groups, as well as decreases in dementia symptomology. Together, these studies add to the growing literature supporting the use of RFT-based interventions to address those areas of concern for individuals affected by dementia and cognitive decline.
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