In the next years and decades, the number of old spousal dyads having to deal with the onset and progression of dementia in one partner will increase significantly. Existing research indicates that caregiving for an ill spouse is related to decreased caregiver well-being and high levels of caregiver stress. In this theoretical paper, we argue that three aspects deserve additional theoretical and empirical attention: (a) Some spousal caregivers seem to exhibit stable pattern of individual well-being, (b) dyads may be able to adapt their ways of supporting each other to maintain a maximum of dyadic autonomy, and (c) the
progression of the dementia increasingly compromising the individual autonomy is likely to require different behaviors and skills of the dyad to achieve high levels of dyadic wellbeing.
We suggest a 3-phase-model of dyadic adaptation to dementia-related losses of patients’ individual autonomy and discuss adaptive processes in three phases of dementia that may allow stable levels of well-being in caregivers over time. Thereby, our model can integrate existing findings and theories and allows deriving areas of future research.