Title

In sickness and in health: Elderly men who care for wives with dementia

Date of Award

12-2002

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

Advisor(s)

Madonna Harrington Meyer

Keywords

Elderly, Men, Wives, Dementia, Caregivers, Family caregiving

Subject Categories

Family, Life Course, and Society | Gender and Sexuality

Abstract

It is estimated that approximately 1,000,000 elderly men care for spouses with Alzheimer's Disease or other forms of cognitive impairment, yet we have only limited understanding of their work as caregivers and central questions arise. What do men caregivers do and what meanings do they ascribe to their work? What are their distinctive strengths and vulnerabilities, and what can we learn about men and caregiving from their own accounts of caregiving experiences? This qualitative study was based on in-depth, open-ended interviews with 26 elderly men that took place from 1998-2001 in Rochester, New York. All interviews were taped, transcribed and manually coded. Inductive analysis of the data revealed responses to the challenges of caregiving that reflected both success and struggle. Encouraging caregiving responses included feelings of commitment, responsibility and devotion, a style of caregiving that utilizes both management and nurturing, and innovative problem-solving in reaction to the unique challenges of dementia care. Less promising experiences of men caregivers include feelings of isolation and invisibility, difficulty adapting to the demands of domestic care work, and adverse impact on physical and emotional health. Issues of policy are discussed, as well as implications for service delivery and future research.

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