When thinking of the typical caregiver, many people may envision a kind, motherly, nurturing woman. They may be surprised to learn that 40% of caregivers are actually men. There are 16 million male caregivers in America–that is 2 of every 5 caregivers–according to a report released in May 2020 by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP.
It is not only a problem that males are often overlooked as caregivers within families, but they also seek support more rarely than their female counterparts. This could be in part due to cultural stereotypes of a man’s need to exude strength and independence, but it could also be because many male caregivers do not identify themselves as caregivers at all — rather as a son, spouse, or friend that is helping a loved one in need.
Male caregivers, similar to female caregivers, experience moderate to severe caregiver stress. They also share common experiences and emotions such as feeling as they have little choice about assuming their roles, they develop health problems and depression, and often can have difficulties managing finances, medical, and personal care.
If you know someone who is a male caregiver or you are caring for a loved one with dementia, you may find these four tips listed below to be helpful. It is important to remember, you are not alone. The caregiving journey is not one to be taken in isolation. Seeking support is the heroic thing to do.
Tip #1: Become Educated
Learning as much as you can about your loved one’s diagnosis is the first step toward taking cointrol of the caregiver journey and helping your loved one to make decisions that will help them to manage their disease for as long as possible. This will also equip you with the information you need to be an informed caregiver. It is certainly normal to be afrais of learning how this new diagnosis will impact life of your loved one and your family. However, the more you know, the greater empowerment you acheive in being an effective caregiver for your loved one. There is an abundance of information available in the pages of our website. You may wish to begin your information search here. St. John’s Dementia resource center is committed to helping ensure you get the most credible, reliable and objective information.
Tip #2: Get Support
Over time, it can be a challenge to maintain your positive attitude, to stay focused, and to be creative as a caregiver. Male caregivers often do not realize how valuable it can be to talk to others in the same situation—to share experiences, to listen to the solutions they have tried that worked for them, and to share your own stories. Support can take the form of respite care, help from other family members, bringing in a professional to consult, or simply joining a support group. Richard, a caregiver for his wife with dementia, talks about the importance of support groups in this video.
Tip #3: Practice Self-Care
Take care of yourself. Build a support network for yourself with friends, family, professional colleagues, support groups, and other connections you may have. Use social networks (you may try connecting with our Facebook Community, ROC Dementia Caregivers) and the internet to stay in touch when in-person gatherings are not feasible. Plan a vacation with respite care for you—plan it months in advance if you can—so you can have it be something for which you can look forward.
Establish a schedule with your physician to maintain your own health and do not shortchange yourself—keep to it. If you do not already build in an exercise program, plan it as part of your daily routine—it is not just for you, it is for your loved one’s benefit as well.
Tip #4: Plan for the Future
The best time to make a plan for your loved one’s future is before the situation becomes critical. Making your plan early in the caregiving journey allows you adequate time to evaluate the many options available to you in supporting your loved one, should conditions at home prevent you from anaging your loved one safely in this environment. If you have a plan, when the time comes that is needed, you can always evaluate your options in the light of any new developments. Mark Wright, caregiver for his mom and brother, discusses in this video, how he knew it was time to make an alternate plan for his loved ones who needed more care than he could personally provide.