Male Caregivers: The Untold Story
The old saying “It’s a man’s world” is never further from the truth than when it comes to male caregivers faced with caring for a loved one. As many as 40% of unpaid caregivers are men. Men will provide an average of 23 hours of care per week and do so for an average of nearly four years. In reality, men are caregivers, whether they choose to be or simply fell into the role out of necessity. This equals unique challenges for this growing segment of caregivers.
Men Are Less Socially Prepared for the Role
Let’s face it, nurturing is less traditionally a male role. While this is changing, the group of men who are caregivers today often are uncomfortable with tasks like cooking and housekeeping. Add to this personal care tasks like bathing, dressing, personal hygiene, and incontinence care and most men go from uncomfortable to overwhelmed.
Male Caregivers Sometimes Don’t Ask for Help
It’s not comfortable to ask for help no matter who we are. However, women have a more natural support system of friends and family that they have turned to in previous life events, especially raising children. Unfortunately, men often lack this trusted circle that they can turn to for help with such a delicate and personal challenge.
Men Don’t Talk About Feelings
Emotional burnout is a real concern for all caregivers but when men don’t find someone to talk to, it can lead to physical health concerns. Bottling up emotions can allow a man to tackle a challenging situation but it is not sustainable in the long term.
Men Don’t Take Care of Themselves
All caregivers tend to put others before themselves. Men however, are notoriously worse at self-care. If you add the already increased risk factors men have for vascular concerns to the stress of caregiving, this lack of self-care can be dangerous. Caregiving has been linked to an increased risk of stroke for men.
Most of the Resources Target Women
Society’s outdated image of caregiving makes resources for men hard to find. This adds to the confusion and stress when a man is seeking help. Click here for some information on male caregivers.
It’s Not All Bad News for Male Caregivers
There are some benefits men enjoy as caregivers that women don’t always share. It may not be fair but men who fill a caregiving role often enjoy more recognition and praise for their contribution. Women’s contributions are often overlooked or taken for granted. A man’s perspective often allows him to approach the challenges of caregiving as a problem to be solved. This allows for the emotions of the situation to be removed and a heightened focus on improving care. Men often see caregiving as a job or a duty. This perspective allows men to better compartmentalize and not allow caregiving to take over their lives emotionally. Finally, men are sometimes more willing and inclined to hire help. This allows them to remain more physically and emotionally protected while providing for their loved ones needs.
What Can We Do?
There are a few things male caregivers can do to help tackle the challenge of caregiving. By staying positive, we are able to focus on the benefits to our loved one and could find the tasks less challenging. Taking the time for self-care ensures we remain capable of meeting the challenge of caregiving. No one is able to do this alone, seeking the support of family, friends, and professional support groups can provide the outlet necessary to press on. Finally, know that hiring help is a good thing. Many resources exist to help pay for care and providing a professional, trained, and skilled caregiver is never a bad idea.
Regardless of who we are, caregiving is a difficult task but one that you don’t have to take alone. Please contact our office at 410-486-5330 for more ideas on how we can help to ease this burden.