Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Journal of Applied Communication Research 30:1 (February 2002), pp. 1–26.

doi: 10.1080/00909880216576


Copyright © 2002 National Communication Association; published by Routledge/Taylor and Francis. Used by permission.


The researchers used a dialectical framework to examine interviews with wives whose elderly husbands experienced adult dementia from Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders (ADRD), centering on how wives coped communicatively with their husbands’ illness. These “married widows” experienced a primary contradiction between their husbands’ physical presence and cognitive/emotional absence. Interwoven with the presence-absence contradiction were three additional contradictions: certainty-uncertainty, openness-closedness, and past-present. Results describe the ways these wives communicatively negotiated the web of contradictions as they interacted in the present with husbands they once knew. Applications for practitioners and caregivers working with ADRD patients and their wives, including formal and informal support, understanding, and managing contradictions, and ways to more effectively interpret ADRD patients’ communication, are discussed.