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Keywords:

  • grounded theory;
  • gerontology;
  • dementia;
  • men;
  • carers;
  • nursing;
  • gender

Abstract

Title. Help-seeking by older husbands caring for wives with dementia

Aim.  This paper reports a study to gain understanding of the help-seeking process of older husbands caring for wives with dementia.

Background.  Men comprise 41% of spousal caregivers. However, few reports describe older husbands’ caregiving experiences and none specifically explore help-seeking in men caring for wives with dementia.

Method.  A grounded theory design was used to discover a theory of help-seeking by older caregiver husbands. Audiotaped interviews were conducted during 2004 and 2005 with nine husband participants. The interviews were analysed by a research group to discover the core category and the relationships of related categories to develop a theory of help-seeking that was grounded in the data. Margaret Newman's theory of Health as Expanding Conscious provided a theoretical perspective for interpretation of the findings.

Findings.  The core category, ‘Doing the best I can’, was preceded by the antecedent of ‘changing patterns’. Husbands made choices to use action/interaction strategies of ‘Relinquishing’, ‘Reaching out’ and ‘Shouldering’ which were influenced by a variety of internal, relational, situational, and experiential facilitating or hindering intervening conditions. The consequence of help-seeking process was ‘Continuing on’, which had categories of: ‘Keeping at home’, ‘Staying together’, and ‘Taking care of myself’.

Conclusion.  Help-seeking by older husband caregivers is complex and gender-specific. Interventions to assist these caregivers must also be gender-specific and complement already existing help-seeking patterns. Focusing on helping caregivers to discover their patterns of relating and help-seeking empowers them to find new ways of interacting and to discover possibilities for action.