Building a Case Study From Three Points of View, Applying Semi-Structured Interviews: Research on People With Alzheimer’s


A few years ago, I was called to take part in a study on the quality of life of Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers in a specific region of Southern Italy. I immediately thought that a qualitative methodology could be applied and that it would be interesting to collect accounts of people living with this Alzheimer’s and to also interview the doctor who had diagnosed them.

Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia characterized by a progressive decline in cognitive functions (memory, reasoning, language) such as to compromise the daily activities of a person. The consequences that it has on the social life of an individual are rarely studied. Studying the way social relationships change, based on Alzheimer’s, is important since it could activate interventions to support patients. To do this, we decided to build a case study that, through semi-structured interviews, might account for three perspectives on Alzheimer’s: the patient’s perspective, the diagnosing doctor’s perspective, and the primary caregiver’s perspective. This experience reinforced my understanding of semi-structured interviews as a useful tool to grasp the nuances that characterize social relationships in complex social situations.

In the following sections, I examine how the case study was developed by applying semi-structured interviews to capture the three viewpoints, explain the way they were structured and administered, and finally, how they were analyzed.

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