Graduate School of Nursing Dissertations

Publication Date


Document Type

Dissertation, Doctoral


Graduate School of Nursing


chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD, acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (AECOPD), caregivers, situation awareness

Subject Categories

Health Services Administration | Nursing | Psychological Phenomena and Processes | Respiratory Tract Diseases


Dissertations, UMMS; Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive; Caregivers; Awareness


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been recognized as a leading cause of mortality in older adults involving acute exacerbations as life-threatening events that lead to frequent hospitalization for care. Informal caregivers have been essential to helping older adults with COPD during an acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (AECOPD). A lack of empirical knowledge exists regarding the experience of informal caregivers of older adults with AECOPD in situation awareness for recognizing, understanding, and responding to an AECOPD in an emergent situation. This qualitative descriptive study explored situation awareness and its components of perception, comprehension and projection of next steps, including the caregiver’s confidence level during the AECOPD event. Fifteen informal caregivers, ages 31-77 years (mean age 48), who provided care for older adults with COPD were interviewed from an underserved community health center. The overarching theme derived from this study was something was wrong and something needed to be done. Subthemes emerged as a heightened sense of awareness, caregiver tipping point, planning next steps, caregiver confidence, and caregiver commitment. This study utilized situation awareness theory as a relevant guiding framework in exploring the experience of lay informal caregivers caring for older adults with AECOPD events. Study findings provided a description of the complex processes involved, including confidence level, for informal caregiver’s in situation awareness to recognize and respond to an AECOPD event in the older adult. Future targeted interventions need to address strategies to enhance individualized care for older adults with AECOPD events for managing care at home.

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