Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Human Development and Family Studies

Committee Chair(s)

Elizabeth B. Fauth


Elizabeth B. Fauth


Travis E. Dorsch


Josh R. Novak


The national aging trend suggests that population of those aged 65 and older will reach 83.7 million by the year 2050. With increasing age comes the growing possibility of one getting some form of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association expects the number of American’s with dementia to triple from the reported 5 million cases in 2014 by 2050. With a rise in this cognitively impaired population there is reason to look closely at the needs of persons with dementia living in residential facilities and whether or not they are being met. The main focus of residential facilities is to provide aid with physical needs. However, research shows that all people also have social and psychological needs that need to be met to have the highest quality of life possible. Other research shows that residents with dementia spend a majority of their days with little to no social interactions. This study aims to uncover what verbal and nonverbal behaviors, if any, Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) in residential care facilities find to be important when interacting with persons with dementia.

This study includes the analysis of 11 interviews of CNAs from local facilities and home health companies. Analysis of their responses uncovered very few observable verbal and nonverbal behaviors were actually discussed. What was more apparent was that attitudes and internal behaviors participants considered important drove the use of good verbal and nonverbal communication. Five themes were uncovered. They were: Observable Verbal and Nonverbal Behaviors, Valuing Personhood, Get on Their [Cognitive and Reality] Level, Be a Friend, and Compassion. Excerpts from the interviews are included for examples of how these themes presented themselves.