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Late-life remarriage: Stepfamilies make caring more complex
Date:6/25/2008

"I felt so insulted and so hurt. It was like [their father] had met some gal at a bar and married her the next day, and she wanted all his money. I felt they didn't give me any credit, or any respect, appreciation or anything. It still hurts."
--Remarried wife of 12 years, caring for husband with Alzheimer's disease, about her adult stepchildren

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---Late-life remarriage complicates caring for an ailing spouse, according to a University of Michigan researcher who is conducting one of the first known studies to focus on the challenges facing older remarried caregivers---a growing segment of the older U.S. population.

"Caring for an aging spouse is extremely difficult under the best of circumstances," said researcher Carey Wexler Sherman. "When stepfamily tensions and conflicts are added to the mix, the stress can become overwhelming."

With funding from the national Alzheimer's Association, Sherman plans to interview about 125 men and women with the goal of documenting the type, level and quality of social support received from step-children and other social network members, and assessing how late-life remarriage affects the experience of caregiving.

"Past research and current public policy relies heavily on the assumption that most older people who develop dementia are in long-term, intact marriages where the spouses---most often the wife---and adult children will provide most of their care," said Sherman, a research investigator at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR). "It's not clear exactly how late-life remarriage and stepfamily relationships affect the spouse's ability to get meaningful help in providing that care.

"Sometimes remarried partners and adult stepchildren come to consider each other 'family,' and sometimes they don't," she said. "Often you hear people talk about 'my father's wife' or 'my husband's children'---which can be a sign that a family hasn't really blended. Ambiva
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Contact: Diane Swanbrow
swanbrow@umich.edu
734-647-9069
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert

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