Times They Are A Changin’: Men as Caregivers

By Laura Hellwig , RN, PCOA Volunteer Recently a new Family Caregiver Support Group (FCSG) participant contacted me, the group facilitator, to find out if any other men would be attending the upcoming group. He shared that although the women in the group were greatly helpful, he wanted to hear about other men’s experiences in caring for a spouse with dementia. Hearing his expressed need for support, I wondered what is different about men and women as caregivers, and how their unique needs— if there are any—could be met. Demographics In America, the estimated number of unpaid caregivers (also known as “family caregivers” or “informal caregivers”) who have provided care to another person age 50 and older, in the last twelve months is 34.5 million. Considering that on May 27, 2019, the calculated USA population was 328,950,632 ( popclock/), those caregiving for older adults constitute about 10.5% of the U.S. population! Current statistics (AARP, Family Caregiver Alliance, 2015) tell us that about 40% of family caregivers are men. That means, for those caring for adults 50 and older, 13,800,000 are men. In comparison to 30 years ago, when men were about 18% of the caregivers, one can see that roles have evolved during this time-frame. Caregiving Journey: Men’s Perspective As with women, personal and work life experiences tend to frame how men address caregiving for their loved-one(s). While the following key differences

between men and women have been demonstrated through multiple studies done within the last ten years, these will likely change as caregiver resources and services (e.g., insurance-covered in-home assistance) become more readily accessible. • Men are less likely to have a social network established where they can reach out to talk about caregiving issues, or just about “stuff” in general. Even when a man has a group of supportive friends, whose conversations are more centered around hobbies, sports teams or work-life, he might be reluctant to talk with them about personal issues. This lack of social support can contribute to feelings of isolation. • For married couples, coordination of medical care (such as scheduling appointments and renewing prescriptions) usually was overseen by the wife. However, this is a task that most men feel at-ease taking on. • Often, men have had less “hands on” responsibility for household chores. Learning domestic duties such as laundry, food shopping and preparation and routine cleaning can feel overwhelming when also learning new caregiving skills. Men are more likely to hire-out such home tasks, or delegate the work to family members or friends who offer assistance, and this can help reduce the caregiver’s stress. • For many, caregiving can also include providing personal activities of daily living (ADLs): feeding, dressing, bathing and toileting are included. Many men currently caring for a woman, whether that be a wife, mother, sister or friend, can feel

uncomfortable with the physical aspect for this part of caregiving. Here also, men are more likely to hire a caregiver to assist About 40% of today’s family caregivers are men, up from about 18% 30 years ago, according to the most recent statistics available. Like their female counterparts, some men may have left jobs, retired early, moved to live with their care-recipient or encountered other disruptions to familiar routines and expectations in their lives. The resulting life changes can lead to feelings of isolation and depression. Self-care techniques are important in preventing or resolving these emotions. Establishing a routine that includes: “me time” to do what is important for you, exercising alone or with a group, eating a healthy diet and getting between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night are all beneficial components of self-care. As with any life change, there will be with this part of caregiving. Managing A New Normal

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July/August 2019, Never Too Late | Page 5

Pima Council on Aging

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