Objectives. The aim of this study is to describe, from a gender identity perspective, the experiences of older men involved in the process of caring for a partner at home and the placement into a nursing home.
Background. Few studies have paid attention to the importance of gender when considering the social experiences of older men providing care for an ill spouse and finally placing a partner in a nursing home. Further understanding is much needed of how older men experience the process of caring for a spouse from a gender identity perspective.
Design. A qualitative constructivist approach was adopted for this study.
Participants. Data consists of interviews with seven men that have been informal carers and experienced the placement of their wife in a nursing home.
Methods. Interviews were analysed with a constructivist approach.
Results. The results indicate that men go through two transitions in their gender identity during the caregiving process and placement. From the mutual loving relationship of being a loving husband, the social responsibility of daily care of their wives changes the situation into that of being a caring husband, and finally with the move to a nursing home there is a transition from intimate care to a relationship based on friendship.
Conclusions. The results show that older caregiving men undergo a process involving a reconstruction of gender identity. To formally recognize men’s caring activities and to make them sustainable, we believe that men in an informal caring relationship need support.
Relevance to clinical practice. Nurses need to recognize the identity struggles resulting in sadness and suffering that are related to changes in men’s lives during the caregiving process. Understanding the dynamics and changes that occur when men take on a caring task is important for the development of their role as carers.