Being an older husband caregiver in South Korea
Cho, Won Jee
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The rapid growth of the aging population has raised concerns about long-term care for the elderly in South Korea. Traditionally, the family, particularly the daughter-in-law or wife, has been considered as a primary source for eldercare. With the increasing unmet needs of family caregivers, older husbands are increasingly engaging in spousal care. Yet, little is known about the experience of older husbands caring for their wives with chronic disease because of the numerical predominance of women in eldercare. The purpose of this study was to understand what older husbands experience while caring for their wives with illness and/or disability and how they refashion themselves as spousal caregivers in Korean society. This study is a phenomenological one, focusing on the lived experience of being an older husband caregiver in South Korea. The following research questions guided this study: (a) what are older husbands’ experiences of spousal caregiving inside and outside the caregiving situation in everyday life? and (b) what is the essence of ‘being an older husband caregiver’ within multiple contexts in Korean society? In-depth interviews were conducted with 23 men aged 60 and over who, as primary caregivers, have taken care of their wives and were selected using criterion sampling. Phenomenological data analysis was used to derive essential themes from their accounts of the lived experience in spousal caregiving. Findings revealed that, on the transition to caregiving, older husbands were confronted with emerging tasks and expanding family roles. After entry into spousal care, as the spouses’ health status changes, caregiving husbands continuously adjust to changes occurring in the multiple, intertwined contexts and manage or modify the caregiving situation for their caregiving activities and the quality of care. Older husbands identify themselves as a caregiver by both personal and social recognitions. These findings contribute to an initial understanding of the complex, dynamic, ongoing process of being an older husband caregivers in the multiple, interrelated contexts. Based on these findings, implications for future research, practice, and policy were made and presented.