Many don’t realize 40 percent of caregivers are men—and they need support, too.
When we think of family caregivers, we tend to think of women. In fact, the typical caregiver is a middle-aged woman caring for a relative, often her mother.
But the face of American caregiving is rapidly changing, according to “Breaking Stereotypes: Spotlight on Male Family Caregivers,” a 2017 report from AARP. Eight years ago, less than 34 percent of caregivers surveyed were men. Today, 40 percent of the 40 million Americans caring for a loved one are male.
In many respects, male caregivers resemble their female counterparts. Both say they had little choice about taking on caregiving responsibilities, whether they’re caring for a parent, a spouse or partner, or other relative. Both are more prone to health problems and depression than non-caregivers. Both often not only manage finances and medical care, but also provide personal care, including helping their loved one with eating, bathing, dressing, and toileting.
But the AARP report—based on focus groups convened around the country—suggested there might be some differences between male and female caregivers, too.
Men, for instance, may be more uncomfortable with hands-on personal care, although such intimate interactions can be difficult for caregivers of any gender, said report author Jean Accius, vice president at AARP’s Public Policy Institute. He maintains personal care might be particularly hard on those men who haven’t spent time in the child-care trenches doing things like changing diapers and giving baths.
Another difference men saw between themselves and female caregivers: They say they’re less likely to open up to others when they feel stressed or overwhelmed by caregiving responsibilities. Part of the roadblock to seeking help may stem from the idea that many men in this role do not self-identify as caregivers.
“What we’re seeing is that men are more and more taking on this role, but often they’re not identifying themselves as caregivers,”Accius said. “They think they’re doing this for their family or loved ones, but we’re finding that they’re seeking support less because they’re not identifying themselves as a caregiver.”
“They think they’re doing this for their family or loved ones, but we’re finding that they’re seeking support less because they’re not identifying themselves as a caregiver.”
Almost everyone either is a caregiver, has gotten help from a caregiver, or knows a caregiver. If you’re a caregiver, know there is help out there and that it’s important you get this help.
Go to MySourcePoint.org/caregiver to find the resources available to you.
This story was also published in the Fall 2018 issue of My Communicator.