Despite estimates of 3 million gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender older persons today, doubling in the next two decades (SAGE, 2014), to date, older same-sex partner caregivers have received little research attention. This qualitative study of 60 same-sex and heterosexual spousal/partner caregivers seeks to pinpoint how caregivers draw upon existing gender repertoires ? sets of skills and resources learned over the life course that affirm gender identities formed in relation to the gender division of labor ? in performing their care work. The resulting caregiving approaches influence the particular areas of care work that will be found problematic, the ways caregivers might respond to these challenges, and the extent to which such strategies help caregivers effectively perform their work. This study asks how sexual orientation shapes gender repertories, given that the division of labor among gay and lesbian couples must be negotiated, and examines how this shapes caregiving approaches and experiences. Understanding how sexual orientation contextualizes repertoires and caregiving approaches will provide much needed information on caregiving performed by gay and lesbian partners and on heterosexual spouses by expanding notions of gender. Such knowledge has implications for both policy-makers and practitioners who seek to fashion effective interventions that can help caregivers with their tasks and avoid negative physical and mental health outcomes.
Informal caregiving to those with Alzheimer?s disease is vital to maintaining the quality of life of care receivers; at the same time, it is especially challenging. Findings from this qualitative study on older heterosexual and gay and lesbian caregiver partners will inform interventions to reduce caregiver stress and burden, which should provide some protection from the ill health that might otherwise result. In turn, elucidating caregiving approaches that best support care receivers in these different demographics will both improve their quality of life and reduce health care costs.