Exploring sons’ experiences of caring for a mother affected by dementia and of receiving psychological support
: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

Student thesis: PsychD


It has been estimated that 1 million people in the U.K. will be affected by dementia by 2025 with two-thirds of them being cared for at home. These informal carers are often family members who may be ill-equipped to cope with the rapidly progressive nature of the condition and thus their mental and physical well-being may be severely impacted. Literature suggests the number of sons becoming primary informal carers for a parent is increasing. These sons have unique experiences relating to the way they access support and deal with their outside relationships. Existing studies of adult-son carers have not differentiated between whether the cared-for parent is a mother or father, though this may have a bearing on understanding in this area. Gaining a better understanding of this group of caregivers and their experiences of support would help with the development of effective services for this population. This study aims to address the gap in knowledge by exploring the experiences of seven adult sons who identify as primary informal carers for a mother affected by dementia and who have accessed psychological support. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was the applied methodology by which transcripts from semi-structured interviews were analysed. Four super-ordinate themes were identified, namely ‘Entering the world of dementia’; ‘The maternal relationship’; ‘Adapting to the circumstances’; and ‘Receiving psychological support’. Each super-ordinate theme had sub-themes which sought to give a sense of the trajectory of the sons’ experiences. The findings show sons have unique experiences in the struggle they had when they first entered the world of dementia, their coping strategies, the relationship they had with their mother and the struggle in giving cross-sex care. They also experienced an element of anticipatory grief as well as the stresses that come with their change in identity. They all valued support accessed but suggested it would have decreased their burden if it had come sooner, especially at the point of diagnosis. In the case of two participants, earlier help could have delayed the transition of their mother to a care facility. These findings should encourage the development of contextually sensitive interventions for this group of carers, who should be assessed at the point of their mother receiving the diagnosis and receive ongoing monitoring. Interventions should include grief counselling and psychoeducation on how to deal with giving cross-sex care.
Date of Award26 Jun 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorMark Donati (Director of Studies) & Jasmine Childs-Fegredo (Co-Supervisor)


  • Caregivers
  • psychological support
  • therapy
  • male
  • dementia
  • mothers
  • sons

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