The traditional role for men is to be providers, making sure that their loved ones have what they need. Yet often men overlook their own needs—and health. During Men’s Health Week in June, men are reminded of the many ways they can care for themselves so that they can continue to be there for their families.
Men who provide family caregiving are perhaps more likely than others to put the health of a spouse, elderly parent or disabled child ahead of their own. The Male Caregiver Community, an online destination for men who provide family care, was launched by Homewatch CareGivers in 2012 as a place for male family caregivers to seek and find support for themselves
The number of men filling the role of family caregiver is about 44 percent, according to the National Family Caregiver Association, and that is up from 19 percent in 1996. Some of these men join the Male Caregiver Community and share their concerns and stress with one another.
“It's so great to have found this community,” Ron Richards wrote in the Male Caregiver Community forum in 2014. “It's terrific to be able to share about our experiences. Caregiving for a loved one is often so difficult. It can be such a lonely existence. We all need to take care of ourselves and be supported.”
Ron Richards is the author of Dodging Dandelions, A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Acceptance. The book is about his experience caring for his wife after her cancer diagnosis.
Others join the forum in search of practical advice. “Are there any ways to stop unsafe behaviors in this kind of dementia?” asked Joseph in one of his posts, as he explained that he provides care for his 94-year old grandmother who has dementia.
Joseph was able to receive advice from Homewatch CareGivers’s own Nicole Brackett, LPN and Home Care Training Specialist. “The behaviors we see in elders living with dementia can be challenging and difficult to say the least,” she responded. “There is a struggle to balance promoting independence while ensuring a safe environment for our loved ones.”
In addition to those seeking a community and knowledge, the Male Caregiver Community also features profiles like that of Ken Wong, a Canadian husband who is caring for his wife with early-onset dementia. “I have restructured my life to the best of my abilities both emotionally and financially to care for my wife and to enjoy every moment together with the limited resources we have,” Mr. Wong said. “Being a home caregiver is not easy; your whole world is turned upside down and your priorities change. Some days are very difficult to get through because you feel very alone.”
Research shows that men who provide care for their wives tend to experience depression and less likely to receive support from family members. During National Men’s Health Week, June 9-15, 2014, men can reach out to their doctors, family and other support networks to make sure they are getting enough sleep, physical exercise and good nutrition, as well as check in on their mental health and wellbeing.
The Centers for Disease Control website can help to start a conversation about men’s health and even encourage men to make positive changes in their health. Learn more about their tips for “taming stress,” “moving more” and taking preventative health measures.
All men, whether they currently are family caregivers or anticipate being one for a loved one, can benefit from better health and in turn, those that they care for will also benefit.
There might be some jobs out there better suited to a specific age in life, but caregiving can—and is—done by people from all ages and stages of life.
It might be time to start thinking about being together again. Well-being is not just about exercise and nutrition, but also relationships and emotional sturdiness.
Too much caregiving without support can lead to burnout and other ailments for a family caregiver. Learn how to avoid injury, stress, and maintain well-being.