The couple living with dementia in the Community: Accomplishing life together Through their Efforts toward Mutuality

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Tallman, Barbara
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The relationship of the couple when one spouse lives with dementia is increasingly identified as significant to their experience of dementia. My study explores the couples’ relationship by examining their efforts toward mutuality. Two research questions were developed to explore the couples’ efforts toward mutuality: 1. How did the intimate couples respond to each other when they were talking about their everyday activity/ relational story and when they engaged in routine/novel activities; 2. How did their responses shape the mutuality of the intimate couple? Focused ethnographic methods were used to collect the data. Three to five field visits were conducted with eight different couples. Data was collected using joint, individual, semi-structured and guided conversation type interviews and participant-observation. Symbolic Interactionism and the narrative approach informed the thematic analyses applied to the data. Answering the first question identified how the social self of the PLWD and their spouse were making sense of their current situation living with dementia. Two types of responses were identified: the response of the familiar self and the response of the unfamiliar self. The response of the familiar self expressed the spouses moving toward mutuality while the response of the unfamiliar self expressed the spouses’ difficulty with their mutuality. The second question was answered by deciphering the patterns of responses in the stories being told by the couple. These responses formed three different patterns of interactions. These different styles of interaction are enhancing, maintaining and disrupting. The different responses and styles of interactions are the analytical framework that describes the mutuality being expressed in the interaction. The findings of this study identify that the couple makes meaningful efforts toward mutuality to accomplish their life together. It is suggested that strategies promoting the well-being of the couple be based on principles of relational practice.
Dementia, Intimate couple, Joint interview, Focused ethnography, Thematic Analysis, Everyday activity, Relational story