An exploration of the impact of support services in identifying and meeting the needs of older male caregivers caring for a chronically ill spouse/partner

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

Evidence increasingly shows that male caregivers have a different approach to caregiving than their female counterparts. Consequently, they may require a different form of support to enable them to sustain their caregiving role. Given that caregiving has traditionally been seen as a feminine activity, previous research has comprised predominantly female samples, and the impact of caregiver support for male caregivers is under-researched. The aim of this study was therefore to address this gap in the literature, by exploring the impact of support services in identifying and meeting the support needs of older male caregivers caring for a chronically ill spouse/partner at home.
A mixed methods approach was employed, which was informed by masculinity and coping theories, over four distinct phases. Quantitative data were collected through a survey (n=39), qualitative data were collected though individual interviews (n=24), focus groups (participants: n=84) and a deliberative workshop (participants: n=36).
Study findings related to three key areas. Firstly, it was recognised that the approach of older male spousal caregivers can be influenced by views on masculinity that are aligned to traditional hegemonic masculinity theories. Secondly, caregiving can involve social isolation, loneliness and challenges to spousal intimacy for older males. Thirdly, support providers should understand and be responsive to the gendered nature of caregiving and consider this when engaging and delivering support to older male caregivers. Findings demonstrated that older male caregivers experienced negative caregiver outcomes, which were not necessarily alleviated by existing support services.
The current study makes an original contribution to knowledge by advancing understanding about how existing caregiver support impacts on older male caregivers, in light of their particular approach to their caregiving role. Recommendations include improving awareness of this amongst formal support providers, and drawing on developments and ideas from other male-centred initiatives in men’s healthcare and health promotion.
Date of AwardJun 2020
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsHealth and Social Care Research Development Office
SupervisorSonja Mc Ilfatrick (Supervisor) & Assumpta Ryan (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Male caregivers
  • Masculinity
  • Support
  • Intimacy
  • Mixed methods

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