First Advisor

Gita Mehrotra

Term of Graduation

Winter 2023

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Social Work and Social Research


Social Work





Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 187 pages)


With the variety of research about dementia and Alzheimer's disease (AD), few studies have explored the effect of social structures, such as racism, on how Black/African Americans conceptualize memory loss, dementia, or AD. Furthermore, limited within the scholarship are the environmental factors and structural racism that are thought to influence cognitive impairments and meaning making about cognitive decline impacting Black/African Americans.

Most U.S. research centers on methodologies and epistemologies grounded in Eurocentric ways of knowing (objectivity, individuality, either/or logic). However, Eurocentric methodologies fail to acknowledge the cultural experiences with memory loss, cognitive impairment, dementia, and AD, as well as the influence of racist structures and cultural perspectives, specifically Black/African American ways of understanding (affect symbolic imagery, communal, diunital logic). When researching Black/African Americans, the methodology needs to incorporate cultural nuances to accurately reflect the responses of the research participants.

This dissertation explored the utility of the Africana worldview (paradigm) by exploring the process Black/African American Americans use to define memory loss and how structural racism may influence their definition and meaning making about memory loss. The Africana worldview was used to explore the following research questions: (a) What is the role of cultural meaning making in understanding memory loss and dementia among Black/African Americans? (b) What are the different ways the Africana Worldview aids in the interpretation of Black/African Americans' understanding of memory loss, dementia, and AD?

Findings from this research focus on the importance of maintaining belonging, cultural meaning making, and the impacts of structural racism on the lived experiences of people living with cognitive decline and their caregivers. Implications for social work education, practice, and future research are also discussed.


© 2023 Andre Pruitt

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