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Keywords:

  • family caregiving;
  • wives;
  • dementia;
  • grounded theory

Abstract

Wives giving care to spouses with dementia are a particularly vulnerable segment of the caregiving population. In this article a grounded theory study of 20 such wives is described, with their experiences explained as a process of interpretive caring. Wives began the process by either seeing changes in their husbands or recognizing changes in their work. Following this, the wives moved on to a phase of drawing inferences about what they observed and then took over their husbands' roles and responsibilities. These changes prompted the wives to rewrite identities for their husbands that incorporated the dementia and to rewrite identities for themselves to reflect their new roles, abilities, and strengths. Finally, the wives set about constructing a new daily life to sustain both partners. This process is neutral and allows for positive aspects of caring to be considered along with grief and frustration. © 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Res Nurs Health 25:307–316, 2002