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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Navigating family caregiving for dementia : the joint actions and projects of family members Silva, Vanessa


As the “baby boom” generation ages and the population shifts over the next two decades there will be an unparalleled number of individuals in need of care and a significant gap in resources to meet the demand. With this shift, family members, though often unequipped and lacking in resources, are expected to shoulder the financial, medical, and other care needs of the aging population (Barnett, 2015). Though one individual often serves as the main caregiver, all family members can be impacted and experience stress due to the complex caregiving process. This study explored the joint goal-directed processes that occur in the caregiving process for a family member with dementia. The research question that guided the study was, “What are the goal-directed actions and projects that family members construct, express and participate in together, relevant to the caregiving process for a family member with dementia?” The method used to explore this research question was the action project method that examines the internal thoughts and feelings, manifest behaviours and social meaning behind joint actions. Three family dyads (six individuals) who are involved in family caregiving for an individual with dementia participated in a joint conversation and self-confrontation interview. The study was examined from a multicase perspective following in-depth analysis of each case using the action project method. Qualitative analysis revealed that family members engaged in joint goal-directed actions that facilitated caregiving projects for the three participating families. Although there were processes unique to each family, common processes amongst the three families included relative unwillingness to vocalize internal thoughts and feelings, a focus on the primary caregiver, having different perspectives on caregiving, prioritization of physical needs of the caregiver or care receiver, and grieving the loss of normal. This work represents the first attempt to explore family caregiving processes (i.e. conversations) as they occur between family members and adds to the growing literature on the family caregiving experience. Implications for counselling practice working with individuals navigating the complex process of family caregiving are also drawn.

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