Caring for a dying partner: the Male experience

Rebecca Judd, Helen Guy, Ruth Howard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Objective: Caring for someone close who is dying, such as a spouse, is an emotive experience; however, there is little research examining the phenomenon of caregiving for a spouse at the end of life and of men’s experiences specifically. Existing literature suggests that men who are providing care are less likely to seek help than women, especially psychological and emotional support for themselves. The aim of the current study was to explore the lived experiences of men caring for a dying spouse or partner and their help-seeking for themselves during this time.

Methods: Eight semi-structured interviews were conducted with men caring for their partner, who was receiving palliative care. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis.

Results: Three superordinate themes emerged from the data, “Illness Questions Everything,” “Constructing the Caring Role,” and “Help-Seeking at the Limit.” The arrival of a terminal illness into a partnership is traumatic, and while it can deepen relationships, it can also create distance. The carer role has conflicting demands and carers need to make sense of their experience in order for the carer role to be constructed as a source of purpose or meaning. Finally, the idea of seeking help for oneself as a carer during this time is seen as “incompatible,” unmanageable, and can only be considered if constructed as a “last resort.”

Significance of Results: Men care too; however, they can feel confused by this role and unsure as to how this fits with their identity as a man. They make sense of this by identifying as a partner whose “duty” or “responsibility” is to provide care. Although this is an understandable stance, it puts them at risk of further emotional, psychological, and physiological difficulties if their own needs are not met. Men need to be supported during this time and their caring qualities need to be destigmatized and demystified so that they can feel more able to identify with the role and look after themselves while caring for their dying partner.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-11
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Palliative Care
Issue number1
Early online date14 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Judd, R., Guy, H., & Howard, R. A. (2019). Caring for a Dying Partner: The Male Experience. Journal of Palliative Care, 34(1), 5–11.


  • caregiving
  • help-seeking
  • male carer
  • palliative care
  • qualitative
  • spouse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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