Many people consider women to be the caregiver in a family. According to a 2017 report by AARP, there are 40 million caregivers in the United States – 40% are men. This is up from 34% in 2009. Because AARDA estimates 75% of all autoimmune disease patients are women, this can place men in a different or dual role in their family.
Both male and female caregivers say they didn’t have much of a choice when taking on the caregiving responsibilities of their spouse or partner, parent, or another relative. While the patient is prone to flareups and mood swings, caregivers are more prone to develop their own health problems or depression than non-caregivers. Providing personal care (eating, bathing, dressing, going to the restroom, etc.), cooking, laundry, and child care can be things a new caregiver is not ready for. This makes it important – for male and female caregivers alike – to take care of themselves as much as they do for the patient and family.
The report said men may have some difficulties to overcome, such as:
- being uncomfortable with hands-on personal care (especially for those who haven’t spent much time changing diapers and giving baths)
- talking to others when they are stressed or overwhelmed
- developing a new level of patience
- NOT taking it all on alone
- caregiving does not have to be the caregiver’s sole responsibility
- peer support is essential and recommended (look for local caregiver peer support groups even if they are not related to your patient’s disease)
Being a caregiver has its challenges. Being a male caregiver might be uncharted territory for some, so be patient, talk to others, and be there for your family. Everyone will appreciate it.
SOURCE: Breaking Stereotypes: Spotlight on Male Family Caregivers (Accuis, J., March 2017, AARP Public Policy Institute)