An investigation into the impact of dementia on couples and how they cope with this

  • Louise Foster

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Research into the lived experience of dementia, which has tended to focus on people with dementia and their spouses (carers) separately, has identified that that spousal relationships play a crucial role in this experience. However, there is a lack of knowledge as to how the dyadic interactions in spousal relationships affect the experience of dementia for couples. This thesis aimed to address this gap by exploring how couples in which one partner had mild dementia described the impact of dementia and their attempts to cope with it. It was a qualitative study which followed the theoretical and methodological stance of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Face to face semi-structured interviews were conducted with twelve couples, with each partner interviewed separately. Results illustrated that couples’ reported their experience as a chronological process and were motivated to get on with their lives by maintaining a sense of normality. This study contributed to the literature by revealing how both partners experienced and coped with dementia, and the impact that their actions had on their spouse. Couples maintained normality through developing positive cognitions, keeping active, lessening the load and direct discussion and support. It was clear that couples’ (particularly carers’) awareness of dementia and its implications, combined with their knowledge of their spouse, affected how they experienced and coped with dementia. It was also clear that couples had different expectations about what constituted an acceptable level of communication, which thereby affected choice of coping strategy. The idea of a Relationship Continuum as a way to consider the impact of pre-morbid relationship styles on couples’ responses to dementia was explored. Results were discussed in terms of existing knowledge and ways in which this thesis has added to the literature were highlighted. Professional and practice implications, limitations and future research were discussed.
Date of Award16 May 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorKaren Rodham (Supervisor) & Suzanne Skevington (Supervisor)


  • dementia
  • coping
  • couples

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