If you are a man caring for a spouse or a parent, you and your fellow men are poised to change the face of caregiving for good.
Changes in today's gender roles, together with an overall increased life expectancy, have lead many men to find themselves in what had traditionally been a woman's role. The 2012 Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project found that 37% of men over 18 years of age are now serving in a caregiver role and that number is only expected to grow.
Alzheimer's statistics show that diagnoses have increased from 19% to 40% from 1996 to 2011. With dementia and Alzheimer's increased prevalence in females, it stands to reason that more men will be caring for their wives as time goes on. Currently, it is estimated that there are 3 million men acting as caregiver for their spouse.
Researchers have also studied the impact of gender differences on caregiving. It should come as no surprise that the approach to this caregiver role and the impact that it has on one's life may be vastly different for a man. Interestingly, what may have been seen as a shortcoming in the male gender in previous life circumstances may now prove to be most advantageous. On the other hand, there are situations where men may find their "maleness" leaves them less prepared than their female counterparts.
1. You are a hero. Because of traditional gender roles and few public examples of male caregivers, many still see male caregivers as a novelty. As with all things new and unexpected, the public, friends, and family are in awe. Just like a diaper-changing dad of a decade ago, this caregiver role in a male gets attention and supportive praise. And guess what? That support can go a long way to improving a man's morale and confidence while decreasing the inherent stress of the job.
2. You are a problem solver. Men typically see a problem, develop a plan, and execute. This goes a L-O-N-G way in caregiving. A caregiver can expect a slew of unexpected problems fraught with emotion. Unlike a female caregiver who tends to be caught up to a degree in the emotional and relational aspects of the problem at hand, men just get 'er done!
1. You were born to nurture. While this may sound sexist, the truth is that most women have been caring and nurturing their whole adult life. This gives women the advantage of on-the-job experience going into a caregiving role for a spouse or parent. Add to that juggling household tasks as part of that caregiving role and many men find themselves disproportionately stressed.
2. You know how to ask for help. Most women aren't afraid to jump into support groups and share their struggles with friends, family, colleagues and co-workers. Men, however, often make a concerted effort to keep everyone, especially co-workers, from knowing what additional responsibilities they are shouldering. This often results in men not benefitting from much needed emotional support and even missing out on employment benefits to which they may be entitled.
Regardless of gender, those who provide care to loved ones are an invaluable part of our society. They are wonderfully dedicated to those in their care and deserve our respect and continued support.
Spencer, Paula, n.d., Caregiver Stress Syndrome: What's Different for Men, Retrieved from www.caring.com
Fact Sheet: Male Caregivers, n.d., Retrieved from www.homewatchcaregivers.com