Trinity Western University


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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Thesis defence: Torn Apart: Involuntary Separation and the Search for Connection”

by:  Willow Glasier

Supervisor:  Dr. Mihaela Launeanu

Second Reader:  Dr. Janelle Kwee

External Examiner:  Dr. Nancy Sidell, Dean, College of Natural and Social Sciences, Mansfield University of Pennsylvania, USA

Exam Chair:  Dr. Marvin McDonald


Placing a loved one in care does not relieve informal caregivers’ physical and emotional stresses, yet the experience of caregivers during the long process of separation has not been fully explored, especially in Canada.  This study sought to identify the social processes of involuntary separation for caregiving spouses.  Participants were 17 spouse-caregivers (12 women and 5 men) with a mean age of 84 years who had been involuntarily separated for an average of 20 months.  All participants lived in or near Medicine Hat, Alberta, and were of Western European descent.  Data were comprised of 12 individual interviews and one focus group. 

Using Charmaz’s (2006) model of grounded theory, this study found that the basic social process of spouse-caregiver involuntary separation was connecting, which had three distinct stages: 1) Initial news and coping, 2) Adjusting to new situation, and 3) Moving forward.  There were also four additional categories: 1) Adjustment to separation, 2) Significant Helping Roles, 3) Family, and 4) Social world.  Movement through the three stages was influenced by individuals’ willingness to reach out for connection and by the abilities of others to extend accurate empathy and practical help.

 This study’s Canada-specific contributions include the polarized responses to the government’s required change in marital status to “involuntarily separated.” Additionally, weather conditions during harsh prairie winters had a negative impact on some participants’ abilities to spend time with their spouses in care.  The implications of this study highlight spouse-caregivers’ needs for connection and support not only during the crisis of separation, but in the following months and years.

12:00 - 2:00 pm, Board of Govenors' Hall, Reimer Student Centre, 2nd Floor, TWU

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