Journal of Aging and Identity

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 113–132 | Cite as

Exasperations as Blessings: Meaning-Making and the Caregiving Experience

  • Howard Karl Butcher
  • Kathleen Coen Buckwalter


This study examines the process of how caregivers can shape the frustrations and exasperations of caring for a family member with Alzheimer's disease into blessings. Heidegger's hermeneutic phenomenological perspective is used to interpret a caregiver's narrative, in which she describes caring for her husband with Alzheimer's disease. The interpretive analysis focuses specifically on how the caregiver finds meaning in the caregiving process. The analysis reveals that the caregiver constructs meaning by emphasizing particular aspects of her experiences, including cherished memories, creating a happy life by living life intensely, and counting her blessings. While some caregivers naturally find such meaning, this study suggests that reading the narratives of others as well as writing about one's own thoughts and feelings can facilitate this meaning-making process. Structured written emotional expression, in particular, fosters meaning-making, diminishes psychological distress, improves immune function, and promotes health and well-being.

meaning-making Heidegger narratives of caregiving: Alzheimer's disease interpretive phenomenology 


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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Howard Karl Butcher
    • 1
  • Kathleen Coen Buckwalter
    • 2
  1. 1.College of NursingUniversity of IowaIowa City
  2. 2.Health SciencesUniversity of IowaIowa City

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