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The care of community-dwelling people with dementia often occurs in the context of pre-existing family relationships. The presence of dementia can result in changes to the quality of those relationships. The purpose of this systematic review is to identify factors that enhance or challenge the quality of spousal or offspring relationships in the context of dementia.
Both qualitative and quantitative studies were included in a systematic review of the literature. Thematic analysis of results was conducted that examined factors related to the relationship quality of community dwelling people with dementia and their spousal or offspring carer. Meta-analysis was not possible due to the heterogeneity of the included studies.
Four themes were extracted from seven qualitative studies: connection to the carer role; identity of the people with dementia; current efforts to maintain relationship connection; and the dyads response to dementia. Each of these four themes incorporated positive and negative facets that impacted on relationship quality. An analysis of nine quantitative and one mixed methods studies identified four domains: influence of dementia characteristics; connection within the dyad; relationship response to stress and carer burden; and carer demographic factors.
The findings of this review highlight relationship factors that are important for supporting relationship quality for the people with dementia and the carer individually, as well as for the dyad together. These findings extend an existing framework of relationship quality in dementia. Implications for interventions to enhance relationship quality in the dementia context are discussed.
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