by Dr. Marla E. Jirak, Owner, CoachSmart Consulting, LLC
Caregiving is often thought of as a role assumed primarily by women. Most men have grown up in a household — and certainly a culture — in which females have been perceived as the primary family nurturers.
However, the profile of the average caregiver is changing.
A survey conducted by the National Family Caregivers Association found that 44% of caregivers are men. That equates to more than 54 million American men who have provided care for an elderly, disabled or chronically ill family member or friend during the past year.
Add to this the recent pandemic when men also were providing day-to-day care and schooling for their children.
From a survey done by AARP, about two-thirds of male caregivers were likely to work full time while caring for a loved one, compared with 55% of women. Men, more than women, deal with issues specific to their gender — often being less familiar and comfortable with the personal and intimate aspects of caregiving and finding it more difficult.
Male caregivers often find their new role to be daunting and all-consuming when helping with day-to-day tasks such as managing medications as well as toileting, bathing, dressing and eating.
The importance for self-care and having respite hours for a loved one is equally important for men providing care. Male caregivers may neglect themselves by eating an inadequate diet, ignoring their need for exercise, getting too little sleep and postponing visits to the doctor for their own medical ills.
Typically, men are less likely to ask for help and may even be reluctant to accept the help if offered. However, studies show that being involved in support groups helps ease the emotional pain and anxiety and fight the social isolation associated with caregiving, especially for men.
Other resources can be having family or friends bring in meals, getting groceries delivered to the house and getting assistance from an in-home care agency.
Investing in the Care Economy
Values around men and caregiving are evolving, especially in key policy and workplace changes. More companies are offering paid family and medical leave for up to 12 weeks. Also, employers are allowing flexible work schedules and working remotely. Finally, universal health care policies and the breakdown of generational barriers add support for men who care for their children and relatives with disabilities.