Chronically-ill older adults (age 80+), who receive a new cancer diagnosis face many unique challenges (e.g., medication management, the fractioning of care, etc.), yet little is known about how these individuals come to understanding and attach meaning to this experience. The paucity of literature on this topic inhibits the ability of health care professionals to effectively help older individuals manage their overall health and well-being. Closing this gap in the literature could therefore enhance illness management by realizing common areas of stress for the older individual. In the proposing of this topic, the applicant is attempting to establish herself as an independent researcher through the identification and study of an area about which we know little. To best begin investigating this topic, the applicant is proposing a qualitative research design, utilizing in-depth, semi- structured, qualitative interviewing methods that is her dissertation project for the completion of her Doctorate degree in Gerontology. To this end, twenty older adults (age 80+) will be recruited from the Johns Hopkins Hospital's Division of Geriatric Oncology for their inclusion in the proposed study. As the project pertains to a mostly unstudied question, a representation of differing levels and types of cancer will be sought. After consenting to project, participants will each be interviewed a series of three times, for approximately one hour per appointment. These interviews will be digitally-recorded and subsequently transcribed for the process of data analysis using thematic analysis and the Atlas.ti qualitative data management software tool. To enhance her understanding and interpretation of this data, the applicant will engage 20 percent of her time to coursework that is in addition to that required by her academic program and that supports an interdisciplinary approach to this research. It is the applicant's plan to present the related findings at professional conferences and to publish the results in peer-reviewed journals. The overall goal of the proposed project is to therefore enable the applicant to establish herself as an independent researcher in the field of health and illness behaviors and management.

Public Health Relevance

Understanding how the oldest old conceptualize new cancer diagnoses in light of current chronic conditions has many public health implications, some of which cannot be detailed until after the qualitative findings of the proposed project are realized. However, the major implications apparent at this time, and with regard to existent literature, are the impacts of a cancer diagnosis on multi-morbidity management/fractioning of care and psychological well-being. Specific regard will therefore be placed on illness impact.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
Dissertation Award (R36)
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HSR Health Care Research Training SS (HCRT)
Program Officer
Harding, Brenda
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University of Maryland Balt CO Campus
Social Sciences
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Hannum, Susan M; Rubinstein, Robert L (2016) The meaningfulness of time; Narratives of cancer among chronically ill older adults. J Aging Stud 36:17-25