By Meghan Hendricksen

The way professional caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia think about dementia can have a significant impact on their well-being at work. The risks of burnout and negative emotions are clear.

Lena Kunz of Groningen University in the Netherlands has conducted research focusing on professional caregivers in Germany, examining different aspects of well-being such as burnout, overall job satisfaction, affective well-being as well as self-reported behavior at work. She developed a new scale measuring the mindsets of those workers while trying to answer the question: What makes a good caregiver good at giving care?

Kunz presented her research Oct. 16 as part of the speaker series at the Gerontology Department of the McCormack Graduate School. She is a visiting fellow to the University of Massachusetts Boston and PhD candidate.

The scale Kunz developed is meant to measure how caregivers see behavioral challenges they face while providing care for persons with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Some may feel such behavior is strictly symptomatic and there is nothing they can do about it. Others may see a challenge and think about ways to change the environment in order to alleviate the situation. The former scenario describes what Kunz and other researchers defines as a “fixed mindset” and the latter describes a “malleable mindset.”

Kunz used the scale in her research to determine how mindsets impacted the performance of caregivers and well-being in the context of work. She found that among the 204 caregivers, a malleable mindset was associated with a lower rate of burnout as well as lower rates of negative emotions experienced at work. Additionally, she found that those with a more malleable mindset perceive themselves to be more competent in the care they are providing.

As a visiting fellow at UMass Boston, Kunz’s future work will focus on what makes caregivers more or less likely to have malleable mindsets, looking for predictors and common points among caregivers with similar mindsets. She also intends to implement her developed scale among caregivers in the United States.