Most people who consider the idea of a family caregiver think of women in this role. The truth is, men are catching up. Today, about four in 10 family caregivers are men. These men are husbands, sons, brothers, son-in-laws or neighbors. They are tasked with the same duties as female caregivers but have their own unique needs.
Male caregivers are much like female caregivers in some ways. They are a diverse group. Some are married, some are single. Their socioeconomic status varies widely. Roughly 59-percent of male caregivers are white.
Like women, many men who fill this role believe they had no other choice. They sometimes are caring for a spouse. Perhaps, they are taking on the role because they have no siblings or no other family members are available or able to assist.
Who Are These Caregivers?
Males who are in this role are often breadwinners in the family. Many balance duties as caregivers with extended work hours. Few inform their superiors about their new responsibilities at home. This is true even though they still find it necessary to regularly take time off for caregiver duties.
In general, men are less inclined to speak up and ask for support than women. Many view asking for help as a sign of weakness. Some believe they should be capable of handling it all on their own, without any assistance. This is particularly challenging for caregivers who have little experience providing care for another person. While roles are shifting, women still often provide primary care in the home, even for children. So, this might be the first time a man has been tasked with managing personal care or other sensitive needs for another human being.
When it comes to seeking out support, male caregivers have a disadvantage versus female caregivers. Many shut down when it comes to discussing their thoughts or feelings. This makes it difficult to look for support groups or even admit to a friend or relative that they need assistance. Instead, they isolate themselves, taking on challenges all on their own. This is not only mentally exhausting but can lead to physical health problems too.
Realizing that men are caregivers is only the beginning. The next step is to find ways to help them in this important role so that they are better equipped to handle the many tasks it involves.
Caregivers Caring for Themselves First
An excellent first step is to encourage male caregivers to take care of themselves. The importance of this cannot be overstated. A husband who is not managing his blood pressure or diabetes cannot properly and safely assist his sick wife. A son who is over stressed and never taking time for himself will quickly burn out and realize how challenging caregiving is. Visits to a doctor regularly are essential. As is eating a balanced diet and taking some time away for exercise and socializing. The husband or son who has difficulty finding time to do this is well advised to consider professional respite care.
Next, encourage men to reach out to the many support services available in their local community. Programs are available specifically to help caregivers as well as to provide support for a variety of conditions including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes, stroke recovery and more. These agencies are excellent at networking family caregivers with others who share their experiences. They also provide information on resources available. Their support makes caregiving easier and helps care recipients to better manage their conditions and maintain their highest level of independence.
Admitting What You Cannot Do
Finally, admit when some tasks are too much. Caring for an aging loved one is both physically and mentally exhausting at times. Admitting what you can and cannot do is a great start when it comes to balancing your own needs with the needs of a loved one. While this step is challenging for many men, it is important. Calling in support from friends, family or professional in home caregivers to assist with bathing, dressing, toileting or other physically demanding tasks is sometimes safer and more effective than trying to go it alone. Using these same individuals for respite care, transportation or medication reminders also takes the burden off of primary caregivers so that they feel confident in their role and decision.
As medical technology helps us to live longer, the face of caregivers will continue to change and evolve. Today, we must realize the importance of supporting male caregivers as much as female caregivers while also recognizing their unique needs.
Whether you are a caregiver or have a loved one who has taken on this rewarding yet demanding role, Salus Homecare San Gabriel is always here to help. Our accredited home care and home health services provide the exact level of care needed to meet a variety of needs. If you have questions or are in need of services, simply give us a call to schedule a free, no obligation evaluation.