This qualitative study examines how spouses experience caregiving when predominantly motivated by a sense of duty and addresses whether any differences between female and male caregivers can be detected. For our purpose semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight male and five female caregivers providing total care to their spouses who are disabled as a result of multiple sclerosis (MS). The analysis consisted of fragmenting and connecting the data and involved close reading and constant comparison. Participants involved in this study maintain caregiving despite the unfavourable changes they have noticed in their relationships. They interpret caregiving as something they just have to do. Males and females develop different perspectives on caregiving, which are illustrated by two exemplary case stories that can be summarized respectively in the phrase 'You have to be satisfied with it', and as 'I have to become harder and less self-sacrificing'. Explanations for these outcomes are sought in differences in moral orientations between women and men and in gender differences regarding their feelings of duty and rights. The results shed light on previous findings that female caregivers report more stress than male caregivers and as such pertain on the discussion on home health care.

Caregiving, Chronic illness, Coping, Disability, Gender differences, Spouse,
Community, Work & Family
Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management (ESHPM)

Boeije, H.R, & van Doorne-Huiskes, A. (2003). Fulfilling a sense of duty: How men and women giving care to spouses with multiple sclerosis interpret this role. Community, Work & Family, 6(3), 223–244. doi:10.1080/1366880032000143438