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Relationships and dementia : an exploration of partners' experiences

Cowell, Charlotte Fern


Charlotte Fern Cowell


Chris Clarke


This portfolio thesis is made up of three parts; a systematic literature review, an empirical paper and a set of associated appendices. The thesis as a whole considers the experiences of relationships for partners within couple dyads, in which one person is diagnosed with dementia.

The first section is a systematic literature review which explores how couples faced with dementia actively work to sustain their couplehood, as well as the challenges that may arise that pose a threat to couplehood. Ten papers were identified and reviewed, to gain an understanding of the similarities and contradictions in the experiences of couples across the literature. Four super-ordinate themes and nine subthemes were identified across the papers. The findings, which are from both the UK and abroad, are considered within the context of the existing literature in this field, and suggestions for future research are made.

The second section is an empirical paper, which explores how people experience enduring love after their partner has moved into residential care due to dementia. The aim was to understand how couples might sustain love and closeness in their relationship, despite living apart and despite the challenges that dementia brings. A qualitative methodology, using semi-structured interviews was used to investigate participants’ lived experiences. Nine participants, six men and three women, who were aged over 65 and married to a person living with dementia who had moved into residential care were interviewed. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was used to explore participants’ subjective experiences. Three super-ordinate themes and eight subthemes were identified. The findings are considered within the context of existing literature, and the clinical implications are discussed.

The third section incorporates appendices from both the systematic literature review and empirical paper, in addition to a reflective statement and an epistemological statement, both reflecting the researchers’ journey through the research process.


Cowell, C. F. (2016). Relationships and dementia : an exploration of partners' experiences. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Nov 30, 2016
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Clinical psychology
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Psychological Health and Wellbeing, The University of Hull
Award Date Jun 1, 2016


Thesis (5.1 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2016 Cowell, Charlotte Fern. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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