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I am lucky that I get to meet people and families every day in my career and see how they function after caregiving challenges arise.  Traditionally, caregiving has been a woman’s role.  Years ago, if a man had to provide care he usually turned to women he knew to help provide the caregiving.  Times have changed and with women being more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, smaller family sizes and children relocating, men have taken a larger role as caregivers.  According to data from the Alzheimer's Association and the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), women still outnumber men when it comes being caregivers but the number of men caring for an older adult has doubled from 19 percent of caregivers in 1996 to 40 percent by 2009.   


Since women have generally been the nurturers, it’s no surprise that men tend to be a little less prepared as caregivers.  They have the challenge of learning to juggle multiple duties while also providing hands-on care for their loved one.  For any caregiver, it is a daunting task to learn about issues such as incontinence, wandering, bathing, and especially the medical care that is sometimes needed, such as catheters, oxygen use, and insulin injections.  For a man it is usually a matter of learning and doing all of this at the same time which can cause increased stress.  


Men are typically less likely to talk about their feelings, which can cause isolation and an inability to collaborate with others in the care of their loved one.  Research shows that caregiver support groups are a great way to reduce stress and find new coping mechanisms for providing care, especially to Alzheimer’s patients.  If a man is less likely to seek out this type of help, then he is missing opportunities to learn new and practical ways to share resources to help develop caregiving skills.


Men tend to view their caregiver role as a job or a duty, which works in their favor.  According to a 2012 study by researchers at Bowling Green State University, they found that men take a 'block and tackle' approach to tasks.  This allows men to often put feelings aside more easily than women and focus their energy on completing concrete tasks.  Male spouses caring for their wives tend to look at this role as an opportunity to give back for all they have done for them through the years.  This attitude is a benefit as a positive outlook helps keep stress levels down.


Research also shows that male caregivers are more likely to hire help with their caregiving role.  Although, I would say in my experience, men have been the hardest to convince to pay for outside support and it usually takes their children intervening to assure help is provided.  The benefits for seeking help leads to decreased stress and lower risk of burnout with a caregiver.  So often caregiving takes a toll on the caregiver’s health, and  Family Caregiver Health reports elderly spousal caregivers (aged 66-96) who experience caregiving-related stress have a 63% higher mortality rate than non-caregivers of the same age.


Western Illinois Home Health Care employees are certified in the Alzheimer’s Whisperer Program.   Our staff is trained to help reduce caregiver stress and offer helpful tips to support the caregiver, client, and family.  Our nurses are trained to help caregivers overcome challenges and provide support through skilled services.  Our goal is to help you keep your loved one at home longer.  If you or someone you know is in need of support while caring for their loved one, please call us at 1-800-228-5993.


Amanda Powell, BSW, is a Senior Care Manager at Western Illinois Home Health Care


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Caregiving is a Man’s Job, Too

June 2015

by Amanda Powell