Communication Privacy Management in the Parent-Child Dyad: Navigating Health Disclosures Regarding a Family Member with Dementia

Erik Junso


Dementia is a cognitive and functional impairment disease of the brain with increased prevalence in the elderly population and results in behavioral changes and difficulty with independent living and social interaction. Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most common form of dementia, and other dementias are impacting more families as the aging population grows. Past research has shown that AD and related dementias greatly impact the family, both in positive ways, such as strengthening of family relationships, and in negative ways, such as increased family caregiver stress. Because dementia causes behavior changes and limits communication abilities of afflicted family members, children in the family may question the family member’s condition. Thirteen parents were interviewed about their health disclosures to their children regarding a family member with dementia. Through application of Communication Privacy Management concepts to interview responses, the private content, motivations for revealing or concealing information, and family influences on privacy management were revealed. It was found that parents possess a great deal of control over an afflicted family member’s health information, and through private health disclosures to their children, parents could influence children’s perceptions and behaviors toward the family member as well as children’s interactions with family members.