Women with dementia

  • Memory loss that affects day to day function
  • Loss of initiative
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks
  • Problems with language
  • Disorientation of time 
and place
  • Poor or decreased judgment
  • Problems with abstract thinking
  • Misplacing things
  • Changes in mood 
and behaviour
  • Changes in personality

When Jane Doe is diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, John Doe can be thrust into the role of caregiver.

And when John Doe is a farmer or lives in a small town, he may not seek out support, have access to it or even think of himself as a nurse to his wife.

Ryan Waldorf, a master’s student in health sciences at the University of Lethbridge, wants to explore the role of rural men who care for wives with dementia.

Waldorf, a nurse who was once part of a team at Lethbridge Regional Hospital that placed dementia sufferers into care facilities, began to wonder how men cope.

“We have a hard time caring for (women with dementia) in hospital and we have ample resources. I always think to myself, how can they (male spouses) cope in the community?”

Waldorf said care of a person with dementia tends to be more burdensome than care for people with other chronic illnesses.

“I think male caregivers aren’t appreciated,” he said.

“A lot of the care is invisible. It’s not publicly acknowledged, the amount of care that they give.”

Waldorf is now seeking men who live in rural southern or central Alberta and care for a spouse with dementia. He plans to interview them to gain insight into their role and their challenges.

The information will be confidential and participants will remain anonymous within his data.

Waldorf plans to visit them in their own homes for an interview of no more than an hour.

Inquiries from other parts of the Prairies will also be welcome, he added. He won’t visit sites outside his study area, but queries might show the scope of the issue.

Waldorf said nursing and caregiving tend to be associated with women rather than men, which might prevent men from identifying themselves as caregivers and make it difficult to recruit study participants.

Additionally, men tend to be less open about their challenges, and farmers in general are more independent and determined to handle situations themselves, without outside intervention.

“Little is known about their struggles and how they feel about care giving.”

Unfortunately, more men may find themselves dealing with the situation that Waldorf is exploring. Men are living longer and statistics show 40 to 42 percent of Canadian men married to spouses with chronic illness are providing their care.

“Women are two times more likely to be diagnosed with dementia, and they usually have dementia for longer periods than males,” he said.

More than half those diagnosed continue to live in their home communities, and 98 percent of them need additional personal care.

As well, dementia diagnoses will increase now that baby boomers are turning 65.

“I’m hoping that I’ll be able to develop a theory that will help develop interventions specifically for males,” said Waldorf.

However, the immediate goal is to find research subjects, interview them and prepare and defend his thesis this spring.

“I know it’s going to be a unique perspective and a masculine perspective, but I just don’t know where it will take me. I’m trying to be open to the material.”

A $30 grocery gift certificate offered to study participants is designed to serve as a thank you.

Waldorf can be contacted at 403-332-4066 or [email protected]

  • Dementia is a general term referring to a variety of brain disorders.
  • Cost of dementia, in medical care and lost income, is estimated at $33 billion annually.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.
  • 747,000 Canadians in 2011 were living with some type of cognitive impairment, including dementia.
  • It is not a normal part of aging and no one is immune.
  • Two to 10 percent of dementia cases start before age 65. Risk of dementia doubles every five years after age 65.

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