Relationship continuity and emotional well-being in spouses of people with dementia

Gerard A. Riley, Laura Evans & Jan R. Oyebode.  Relationship continuity and emotional well-being in spouses of people with dementia  Aging and Mental Health  Published online Nov 2016

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Abstract:

Objectives: Qualitative research has suggested that spousal experiences of discontinuity in their relationship with a person who has dementia (i.e. the relationship is experienced as radically changed) may contribute to heightened feelings of burden, entrapment, isolation, guilt and intolerance of behaviours that challenge.

By contrast, continuity in the relationship may contribute to a greater sense of achievement and gratification from providing care. The present study served as a quantitative test of these suggestions.

Method: A convenience sample of 71 spouses of people with dementia completed three questionnaires – the Zarit Burden Interview (ZBI), the Positive Aspects of Caregiving measure (PAC) and the Birmingham Relationship Continuity Measure (BRCM).

Results: In accordance with the hypotheses, the experience of greater relationship continuity (higher BRCM scores) was correlated with fewer negative emotional reactions to caregiving (lower ZBI scores; rho = −.795) and more positive emotional reactions (higher PAC scores; rho = .764).

Conclusions: The study provided some quantitative support for suggestions arising from qualitative research about how perceptions of continuity/discontinuity in the relationship may impact on the caregiving spouse’s emotional well-being. Helping couples to maintain a sense of continuity and couplehood may assist their emotional adjustment to dementia.

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