Youell, J. (2010) Living with dementia: accounts of intimacy and relationship in older couples experience. Paper presented to: 3rd Qualitative Research on Mental Health Conference (QRMH3): The Disabled Self: Theoretical and Empirical Approaches to Stigma and Recovery, University of Nottingham, 25-27 August 2010.
The aim of the current study was to investigate the change in intimacy in long-term relationships when one partner has dementia. The main body of research has focused on the physiological effects of the disease. However, there is scant research concerning the effect that living with dementia can have on long-term relationships. In contrast to previous research the current study uses qualitative methods to explore the changes in the relationships of six participants who currently care for their partners. Semi-structured interviews provided rich narratives which were analysed using thematic analysis. The findings show that intimacy remains important in older couple relationships including sexual intimacy. Four themes were found, everydayness, absent presence, ever decreasing circles and I don’t know if you want to know this. These themes are discussed in relation to previous research and the implications for support services are examined