A qualitative exploration of how gender and relationship shape family caregivers' experiences across the Alzheimer's disease trajectory

Publication type
Journal article
Kokorelias KM, Naglie G, Gignac MA, Rittenberg N, Cameron JI
Date published
2021 May 01
Open Access?

Caregiving experiences are not static. They change across the disease trajectory and care continuum. However, it is not clear how caregiver gender or relationship type is related to evolving caregiver experiences over time. This qualitative study informed by constructivist grounded theory and framework analysis explored the experiences over time of men and women who were adult children and spousal caregivers to persons with Alzheimer's disease. Forty spousal (10 husbands and 10 wives) and adult children (10 sons and 10 daughters) caregivers to persons with Alzheimer's disease were interviewed using a semi-structured interview guide. Our findings suggest the experiences of caregiving, examined through a gender and relationship type lens, are complex and variable. The caregiving experience was not related to gender or relationship type alone, but often to a combination of the two. For instance, spousal caregivers did not immediately accept the diagnosis, with wives being more optimistic than husbands about a slow progression of the disease. Adult children caregivers were concerned about the ways the caregiving role would impact their personal and career obligations and sought ways to mitigate the changes to their daily lives. Sons and husband caregivers largely utilized home and community health services to assist with personal care tasks, whereas daughters and wives utilized the same services to allow them to complete other caregiving tasks (e.g., housekeeping). Recognition of the complex inter-relationships among gender and relationship type on caregiving experiences supports the need for family-centered interventions. This article also extends sex and gender research as it highlights that an in-depth understanding of the caregiving experience cannot be understood by gender alone and relationship type must also be considered