By: Mary Ellen Nessmith
Caregiving has historically been the woman’s terrain. As recently as a decade ago there were limited resources for men in this role. Caregivers are as diverse as the United States as a whole: they come from every age, gender, socioeconomic, and ethnic group. They share positive aspects of caregiving. They also share many struggles, but can face different challenges depending on their circumstances. Caregivers may require differing support depending on their loved one’s condition and needs, and their own problems, strengths, and resources. According the National Alliance for Caregivers and AARP 2015 report, in the U.S. over 40% of caregivers providing care are males. This is a 10% increase in the past decade. It is important to recognize male caregivers and support them as much as we do female caregivers.
How do male caregivers differ from their female counterparts?
Understanding male caregivers and what unique challenges they face is important when attempting to support them. It also helps male caregivers feel recognized as a part of the ever-growing community of caregivers. They do face some distinctive challenges. Men are less likely to provide sole care for a loved one, but the duration of their experience is as long as their female counterparts (average 4 years). Often men are less likely to provide personal care such as bathing and dressing, when caring for a loved one of the opposite sex who is not a spouse (for example a mother or sibling). Over 40% of male caregivers reported hiring someone to bath their loved one. Men tend to live further away from their families, therefore travel further to provide care. Men report greater comfort using the internet as a caregiving tool (Ginzler, 2010). They also report relying on outside help and technical support more often than their female counterparts.
One unique characteristic of male caregivers is they often treat caring for a loved as a job and manage caregiving similarly as they would a project. They plan and coordinate, looking for practical solutions to problems, rather than navigating the relational realm of solutions as women are more likely to do. The downside of this approach is that they may overlook the emotional needs of their loved ones and themselves (Sander, 2015). Men are less likely to be a part of a support group or ask for help. How can we support this ever growing community of caregivers?
Recommendations if you are male caregiver or trying to support a male caregiver?
1. Find Support:
• Familiarize yourself with and take advantage of what your employer (and spouse/partner) offers to support caregivers
• Reach out to your support system (family, friends, community)
• Access local services
• Seek out an all-male support group if that meets your comfort level
• Utilize online services
• Visit a specialized support group for your needs or based on your loved ones conditions
2. Be aware many support systems are designed for women
• This trend is changing and evolving everyday
3. Understand men also benefit from self- care and need respite
• Get plenty of rest, exercise and maintain a healthy diet
• Continue regularly scheduled physician appointments
• Stay involved in enjoyable activities
• Participate in hobbies you have always enjoyed
Contact Mary Ellen Nessmith at (404)-727-4177 if you have any questions related to this article or The Emory Caregiver Support Program.
Male Caregiver Community
Well Spouse Association
Ginzler, Elinor (2010). Caregiving: It’s Different for Men. Retrieved from http://www.aarp.org/relationships/caregiving/info-07-2010/ginzler-male-caregivers.html
NAC Caregiving in the U.S. Executive Summary (2015). Retrieved from http://www.caregiving.org/caregiving2015/
Sander, Dorothy (2015). Retrieved from https://www.iseniorsolutions.com/men-as-caregivers/