Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work


Ann Fudge Schormans




In the past few decades, health care costs for the elderly population due to their complex medical needs has increased dramatically, such that hospitals and community-based service providers are struggling to deal with this matter. Research is beginning to address how elderly caregivers cope and adapt to the ongoing changes related to their spouses' dementia.

The purpose of this research study is to gain further insight into how four elderly female spouses, who have had to place their husbands into a long term care facility, are still caring for (in a practical sense), caring about (showing love and affection) and caring with (reciprocity with the marriage) their husbands. Qualitative research methods were utilized to highlight their experience. The data was analyzed using a critical feminist perspective and institutional ethnography.

The findings of this study noted the incredible changes elderly wives have to endure as their husband's health and cognition continues to decline, within a long term care facility. The elderly women noted that their ability to care for their husbands was often unrecognized and in direct conflict with nursing home staff. Furthermore, the women discussed how they continue care about their husbands by showing love and affection. The women also noted that their husband's ability to care with them was predominantly non-existent. In addition, they discussed a change in their personal identity; married but living as a single person in the community. Finally, they commented on the lack of physical intimacy and the impact on their marriage. This study offers valuable insight into the ever changing experience of a few female spouses who continue to care for, about and with their husbands and provides suggestions for social workers to work them during this process.

McMaster University Library

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