Women wind up caregivers for ex-husbands

Feb. 23, 2011 at 11:54 PM
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COLUMBIA, Mo., Feb. 23 (UPI) -- If a couple divorce, they usually are on their own when illness strikes or death approaches, but U.S. researchers found some ex-wives turn caregiver.

Teresa Cooney and Christine Proulx of the University of Missouri conducted a series of telephone interviews with divorced caregivers and identified unique characteristics and motivations of these women and how giving care affected their relationships.

"A surprising number of the women reported continued involvement with their ex-husbands post-divorce. A strong motivator for women to become caregivers is related to their desire to maintain relationships, not with ex-husbands, but typically with their children," Cooney says in a statement. "It appears that having shared children with an ex might facilitate emotional attachment. Women also might try to shield their children from the demands of caregiving."

Some women say they experienced positive interactions as they helped their former husbands and several women noted their ex-husbands had "softened" during illness and there was less conflict, Conney says.

"To date, our study is the first to examine this form of caregiving," Cooney says. "Initial findings suggest that it is more common than expected and that the experience is highly variable for caregivers."

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