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The value of “us”—Expressions of togetherness in couples where one spouse has dementia

Background: Living with dementia involves both illness and health, and self-care and care from others. As most persons with dementia live in their own homes, dementia affects not only the person with the disease, but also family, commonly the partner. Research shows that spousal carers feel as though they are losing their partners since they can no longer share thoughts, feelings and experiences as a couple. Aim: The aim of the study was to describe the sense of togetherness of the spouses when one spouse has dementia. Method: The sample consists of 18 recorded conversations between 15 persons with dementia and their spouses. The filmed conversations were transcribed verbatim and then analysed using qualitative content analysis. Findings: One overarching theme arose: Dementia preserved and challenged the value of “us.” It can be challenging for a couple in which one partner has dementia to preserve a sense of togetherness and to have the relationship they wish for. Conclusion: Based on our results, we suggest that practitioners should help couples to strengthen their bond as a couple so as to maintain a sense of well-being. Future studies should examine couplehood under differing conditions, such as long- versus short-term relationships. Prior relationship quality may also be a factor that influences the sense of couplehood following a serious health challenge, such as dementia. Implication for practice: When spouses were able to live together, their relationship was enriched at many levels. Their love for each other strengthened them as a unit – as an “us” – where togetherness seemed to be strong. Future studies need to examine whether the sense of couplehood varies depending on the length of the relationship (i.e., a relationship of many years or a relatively new relationship). 

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Type of Reference
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Journal article
John Wiley & Sons
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Journal Titles
International Journal of Older People Nursing
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