The Alzheimer’s patients’ experience of the built environment:
A Phenomenological approach
Healthcare regularly uses phenomenology as a research perspective to improve medical care. This paper explores the opportunities for applying phenomenology to better understand how the built environment might impact the behavioral symptoms of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is expected to be a major public health problem in the U.S. for the aging population. It is projected that by 2050, the number of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s will triple. This projection raises the question of how we are prepared to provide care for this growing population who, in some stages of the disease, are no longer able to meaningfully communicate. This paper outlines a review of phenomenology as a tool for that planning. From its inception to modern applications, possibilities for applying phenomenology to the intersection of the built environment and Alzheimer’s are reviewed. The ontology of phenomenology, including Husserl and others, is assessed, and standard methodologies are discussed. With this foundation, possibilities for the application of a phenomenological approach to better understand the built environment’s role in the of the lived experience of Alzheimer’s disease are explored, including discussions of quality standards. Rooted in interpretivism and seeking an in-depth understanding of contexts and personal interpretations, phenomenological studies typically gather data through surveys, interviews and observations, which may cause problems with patients that often have issue retaining their memories. As such, this paper walks through the development of phenomenology with an eye to its potential application to Alzheimer’s. This is followed by suggestions for applying the phenomenological research paradigm towards the support - and potentially future cure process of Alzheimer's with a focus on the built environment.