When you say the word caregiver, what comes to mind? A warm, mom-like woman with a comforting smile is probably the first image that pops into your head.
That stereotype is changing as more men step into the role of caregiving. Husbands and sons are taking on more care responsibilities than ever before, a trend that has been on an upward swing for years.
Forty percent of the 40 million Americans caring for a loved one are male, according to “Breaking Stereotypes: Spotlight on Male Family Caregivers,” issued by AARP in 2017. That’s 16 million men taking care of someone in their life. It’s a 6 percent increase from 34 percent in 2009.
Male family caregivers mostly provide care to an aging parent or inlaw (49 percent) or a spouse (13 percent) with a long-term physical condition that required assistance. Men in all age groups from millennials in their late 20’s to Baby Boomers in their 60’s are taking on tasks such as eating, bathing, dressing and managing the household.
These men face similar challenges to their female counterparts in balancing caregiving and other responsibilities. Almost half (48 percent) have modified their work schedule in some way, from taking days off, leaving early or coming in late, while others (6 percent) have left the workplace altogether.
It’s no surprise that 62 percent of male caregivers say caregiving is moderate to very stressful.
Many male caregivers are unaware of in-home care and other resources that can help.
With our growing senior population, along with cuts in senior support service budgets on the local, state and federal levels, it’s more important than ever for family and friends to reach out to those who are providing care for a loved one.
Friends and loved ones of a man who is serving as caregiver often wonder what they can do to help. Here are some suggestions—and don’t be afraid to ask the caregiver himself what you can do.
Encourage him to talk. So often people inquire about the condition of the person receiving care—but they forget to say “How are you doing?” to the caregiver himself. By being a good listener, you let him know that it’s OK to express his feelings. Showing that you care about him is such an important way to provide support.
Are there errands you can run? Could you provide transportation? Visit regularly? Help out with household tasks? He may find it hard to ask for help—so sit down with him and work out a list. Or make a specific offer: “Dad, why don’t you go play a round of golf tomorrow? I’ll bring a movie that Mom likes and some takeout from her favorite Italian place.” Get it on the calendar!
Assist him in exploring outside sources of help. Look at your local senior services offerings. Learn about geriatric care management. It may work best to discuss this in terms of problem-solving: “Jeff, I know a great home care agency that is experienced with memory loss. Your mom would really benefit from that, and it would free you to focus on your work during the day.”
Encourage him to take time for himself. He may have given up or cut back drastically on the activities he formerly enjoyed. Sometimes it helps to have someone “give us permission” to focus on our own needs! Reassure him that taking care of himself is an important part of taking care of his loved one, and remind him that his own emotional well-being is enriched by spending time doing things he enjoys. Too much togetherness can actually strain the caregiving relationship, and the care receiver would probably also enjoy some time apart, with an in-home caregiver, at a senior center or with a visiting friend.
Express your appreciation and affirm his individuality. Caregiving is a challenging task. Throw the spotlight on his efforts and acknowledge the important role he is serving. And don’t forget to talk about the other parts of his life, too. Caregivers can use a reminder of your respect for them as individuals with their own lives.
Source: Assisting Hands Home Care in association with IlluminAge. Copyright © IlluminAge, 2014. The article was updated in 2020 with information from AARP. Charts are reprinted with permission, AARP Public Policy Institute, Copyright 2017 AARP. All rights reserved.”