What are the factors that facilitate or hinder resilience in older spousal dementia carers? A qualitative study

Aging Ment Health. 2015;19(10):932-9. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2014.977771. Epub 2014 Nov 20.


Objectives: Much is known about the factors making caring for a spouse with dementia burdensome. However, relatively little is known about factors that help some spouses become resilient. We define resilience as 'the process of negotiating, managing and adapting to significant sources of stress or trauma'. We aimed to assess whether spousal dementia carers can achieve resilience and to highlight which assets and resources they draw on to facilitate or hinder resilience, using an ecological framework .

Method: Twenty in-depth qualitative interviews with spousal carers from two carer support groups and a care home in North West England.

Results: Eight participants were resilient and 12 were not. A resilient carer was characterised as someone who stays positive and actively maintained their relationship and loved one's former self. Resilient carers were knowledgeable and well supported by family but especially friends, with whom they shared this knowledge. They were more actively engaged with services such as respite care.

Conclusion: There is a need to move towards more ecological models of resilience. We propose that access to assets and resources is not always sufficient to facilitate resilience. Implications of these findings are discussed.

Keywords: dementia; ecological framework; resilience; spousal care.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Dementia / nursing*
  • England
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Home Nursing
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Respite Care
  • Social Support
  • Spouses / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*