A caregiver perspective of how Alzheimer's disease and related disorders affect couple intimacy

Steven M. Harris, Mark S. Adams, Max Zubatsky, Mark White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objectives: Alzheimer's disease and related disorders (ADRD) pose a potential threat to the interpersonal and intimate relationships in couples. The objective of this study was to understand the lived experiences of individuals with a spouse suffering from ADRD and how this diagnosis affects intimacy within these marital relationships. Method: This qualitative study used a phenomenological approach to capture the lived experiences of caregivers of ADRD individuals. A total of 10 interviews were conducted, with six participants recruited from a neurology clinic and four participants drawn from support groups. Structured interviews with open-ended questions were conducted, with thematic units derived from the interview analysis. Results: All participants reported some strain in the ADRD relationship, with different aspects of the disease affecting closeness and connection within the couple. The quality of the marital relationship prior to diagnosis impacted every participant in some fashion as well as having to adjust to ADRD related behaviors. Outside effects on the relationship, coping with the disease and degree of intimacy were additional themes reported from the interviews, with positive and negative attributes given to these themes. Conclusion: Although the caregiving role can be difficult for a spouse, it does not mean that the ADRD has to always negatively impact the marital relationship. Understanding the role that intimacy can play for these couples and how it might contribute to coping strategies for couples affected by ADRD can be a powerful adjunct to other treatments available.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)950-960
Number of pages11
JournalAging and Mental Health
Volume15
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011

Keywords

  • Aging
  • Alzheimer's
  • Marital intimacy
  • Mental health

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