Caregiving as a whole -- nursing, family caregivers, home health aides and the like -- has been largely dominated by women throughout history. But the 2009 Caregiving in the U.S. Executive Summary, conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with the AARP, indicates that more than one-third of caregivers are now male (34%).
Both men and women can make exceptional caregivers, but they may take a different approach to the role. Gail Sheehy, author and former AARP Caregiving Ambassador, addresses the differences in The Secret Caregiver, noting that men are more likely to keep their caregiver duties a secret for fear of workplace stigmas. She also notes that men prefer handling the administrative tasks of caregiving: scheduling appointments, arranging for home health care and navigating insurance matters, but women are more likely to tackle hands-on caregiving duties.
Tips for Male Caregivers
- Focus on the positive aspects, like companionship, to make the role less overwhelming. There are both rewarding and stressful aspects of caring for an elderly or disabled loved one. Too much focus on the stressors can lead to depression and other health problems.
- Remain involved in hobbies. Caregiving can be an all-consuming role, but it's important to maintain your own identity outside of being a caregiver. Take time out for fishing, golfing, or whatever activity you enjoy. Time to yourself will help you clear your mind and maintain your energy.
- Join a support group specifically for male caregivers. If there isn't one in your area, consider starting one -- chances are, there are dozens of other men in your situation nearby. Sharing the specific emotional challenges men face as caregivers can reduce feelings of isolation. Some male caregiver groups meet weekly but talk about everything but caregiving, which can be equally therapeutic, according to the AARP.
- Get help for tasks you're not comfortable with. It's normal for some caregiving tasks to come more naturally to some people than to others. Whether you ask another friend or relative to help out with certain tasks or hire an outside agency, don't feel guilty. You can't do it all on your own, and asking for help isn't a sign of weakness.