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Male Caregivers are on the Rise- It Turns Out That Husbands, Partners, Sons, Grandsons and Nephews Make Great Caregivers Too!

Men are more often assuming the role of caregiver. In fact, data shows that nearly 35 percent of caregivers to the elderly are men. This is a big increase over previous years.

In the past 12 months, an estimated 65.7 million people in the U.S. have served as unpaid family caregivers to an adult or a child. One out of three caregivers — about 14.5 million — are men. That’s a significant number: about 6 percent of all adults in the United States.

And while male caregivers deal with many of the same issues as their female counterparts, they also face some unique challenges.

  • Male caregivers are less likely to be the sole or primary caregiver but are just as dedicated to their role: The duration of their caregiving experience is about four years, the same as women.
  • They’re less likely to provide personal care.
  • 24 percent of male caregivers help a loved one get dressed, compared to 28 percent of female caregivers.
  • 16 percent help with bathing, versus 30 percent of females.

Some interesting statistics about male caregivers:

  • The average age of a male caregiver is 49.
  • The average age of the person he assists is 77.
  • He usually cares for an aging parent, usually his mom.
  • Aging and Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia are the typical reasons the person needs care.

Dr. Edward Thompson, Jr., Professor of Sociology and Director of Gerontology Studies at Holy Cross College, discussed male caregivers of spouses, partners, and the elderly. He emphasized that men provide 40% of the nation’s unpaid care work, and more men (58%) than women are involved in long-distance caregiving. Like their female counterparts, most male caregivers experience some disruption in their lives, particularly with respect to work, social activities, and financial well-being.

Studies also reveal that male caregivers do not verbalize their feelings as willingly as women, and may fail to disclose their burdens to friends, coworkers, physicians, and others. Some male caregivers are embarrassed about helping their wives/partners with personal hygiene and daily activities. Several studies reveal that husband caregivers often worry about not being there for their wives, and feel more powerless, angry, irritable, and likely to use alcohol for self-medication than female caregivers.

Other research suggests that men adapt to caregiving with less adverse impacts on physical and mental health than women. For example, some studies indicate that male caregivers experience less caregiver burden, less anxiety, less role engulfment, and a greater ability to take respite time than do women caregivers. However, research also points to male caregivers’ reluctance to use community services that might benefit them. Such failure to tap into community resources has been attributed to a number of factors, including men’s fear of appearing they cannot handle the situation, unfamiliarity with available services/programs and their benefits, lack of other men using support services, and lack of identification with other caregivers.

Tips for the male caregiver:

  • Be honest with yourself. Get support and help for the things you find you can’t do. It’s ok to ask for help!
  • Be honest with your friends as to what is happening in your life—friends and neighbors will empathize and truly be understanding of your situation. There is no dishonor in a request for help, and there is no reason to feel embarrassed about the diagnosis of your loved one.
  • Educate yourself. Talk to the doctor, a social worker, or a geriatric care manager; ask questions of health-care workers. Inquire about outside services that can provide assistance or support.
  • If you have the assistance of formal caregivers or health-care workers, know that they can provide visual examples of how to deal with your loved one. Watch how they interpret nonverbal cures while providing assistance and learn to use these cues when you provide care.
  • Don’t doubt yourself. Know that stress, anger, and frustration are common feelings among caregivers.
  • If the opportunity arises, offer assistance to other male caregivers. As someone who’s been down the road before, you are a valuable resource.

Caregiving men, although fewer in number, are just as dedicated, diligent and determined to help their loved one live the best life that he or she can. Family caregiving remains the backbone of the long-term care system in this country. Men and women every day give of their time and money, and it’s a commitment that we should all appreciate.

Source: Male Caregiving: Creating a Research, Programmatic, and Policy Agenda for an Emerging Public Health Issue

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