Occupational therapists treating older people with Alzheimer disease know that they must also consider the others who are affected by the disease, the informal caregivers. Intervention is most effective when it enables both the impaired person and the primary caregiver to manage the secondary symptoms of dementia. Unfortunately, little is understood about how caregivers approach and carry out their tasks and about why male and female caregivers respond differently to their caregiving role in terms of depression, burden, stress, and substance abuse.
This paper discusses the effects of gender on dementia management plans of spousal caregivers. Husbands and wives have different approaches to caregiving; each approach has consequences. Male caregivers adopt a task-oriented approach to their duties and carry out their activities in a linear fashion; female caregivers use a parent–child approach and nest activities inside one another in a constant stream of work. Two cases are presented to illustrate gender differences in dementia management plans. Implications for occupational therapy include suggestions for supporting men and women in their caregiving role, modulating the negative consequences of caregiving, and conducting research to demonstrate the efficacy of an occupational therapy approach.