Males as Caregivers
Author: Judy Edwards, BSSW, MCRP, Social Work Care Navigator
According to AARP, two out of five unpaid caregivers in the United States are men (Jean Accius, PhD, AARP Public Policy Institute (2017). Although not traditionally recognized for performing caregiving tasks, men are rising to the challenge either by choice or necessity. There are now millions of male caregivers for their ill and aging loved ones.
How Men Provide Care for Loved Ones
Males may be sharing in caregiving tasks more than in the past, but females still shoulder the major burden of care. Certain caregiving tasks may statistically differ between male and female caregivers. Male caregivers are less likely to provide personal care with only 24% helping a loved one get dressed and 16% helping with bathing. 40% of male caregivers use paid assistance for a loved one’s personal care (National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2009). Caregiving in the U.S.): “Most men have grown up in a household–and certainly a culture–in which females have been perceived as the primary family nurturers. Yet, often by necessity, more men than ever are rolling up their sleeves and helping an ill loved one with day-to-day tasks, such as dressing, toileting, bathing, eating, changing dressings, and managing medications” (Menstuff.org).
Other studies indicate that 36% of female caregivers handle the most difficult caregiving tasks (i.e., bathing, toileting, and dressing) when compared with 24% for their male counterparts, who are more likely to help with finances, arrangement of care, and other less burdensome tasks (National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2009). Caregiving in the U.S.).
The Difference Between Men and Women as Caregivers
WebMD online article entitled Men Are Caregivers, Too, states: “Almost half the people who care for an elderly, disabled, or chronically ill family member or friend are men. But the way they cope is different from women.”vAccording to the National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA), there are more than 54 million Americans who have provided care for an elderly, disabled, or chronically ill family member or friend during the past year. Even though caregiving is often thought of as a role assumed primarily by women, an NFCA survey found that 44% of caregivers are men.
Carole Cohen, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, noted “Some men feel that they don’t have to do it all on their own, and they’re better than women at saying, ‘I need some help with this — you do this part, and I’ll do that part.’ Men have generally been in the work world, they may have become accustomed to this kind of delegating, whereas women of the same generation may be less likely to feel that it’s OK to get help.”
“Men sometimes can be better positioned than women to serve as caregivers, said Julie Bach, an assistant professor of social work at Dominican University in River Forest, who runs a monthly support group for caregivers. Women often attempt to tackle caregiving alone, feeling guilty about the burden they place on others. Men, however, are more inclined to seek out help in the difficult process, Bach said.” (Vikki Ortiz Healy, Chicago Tribune reporter, Feb 14, 2012).
Gerontologist John Khajit, with the Family Caregiver Alliance, notes “Men tend to approach caregiving a little differently than women and are more likely to try to problem-solve the situation,” he says. “They seem quicker to hire a home-care worker, to call social workers, and to contact local agencies. I’ve talked with men who want to move things forward, want to take the next step, and who ask what they need to do to handle the immediate problems in front of them.”
There is an Increasing Likelihood of Being a Caregiver as a Man
Certainly, there were male caregivers in earlier generations, but the number documented today is higher for several reasons including decreasing size of the average family, geographic divide among family members, and societal changes, such as evolving gender expectations as well as new life-expectancy rates (National Caregiver Center). The number of male caregivers is only expected to increase over time, by choice or out of necessity.
Are You Prepared to be a Caregiver?
Many men make extensive plans to ensure that their loved one is cared for if they pass away first. But what if they don’t pass first and need to step into a caregiving role? Are your plans prepared for this scenario, too? Four Seasons is here to help. Our Care Navigators are experienced in helping you set up your advanced care documents so that you are prepared for any situation life may bring your way. During life’s challenging seasons, we are here for you.