Men Are Caregivers, Too
Comfort Keepers® Provides Tips, Shows Support for Male Caregivers
In a role traditionally taken on by women, a growing number of men are charting unfamiliar territory and becoming primary caregivers for their wives or elderly parents. According to a comprehensive study conducted for AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving in 2004, 39 percent of an estimated 44.4 million caregivers are males.
Whether an ill spouse has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, or a stroke, male caregivers often find their new role to be overwhelming and all-consuming. 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 their family members with day-to-day tasks such as preparing meals, cleaning the house, bathing, and managing medications.
To compound the stress in their lives, baby-boomer men may find themselves sandwiched between elder care and child care, and as they juggle work, family, and the needs of an aging parent, their frustration can often turn into despair, exhaustion, and burnout. But with the right support and encouragement, men can find caregiving to be a rewarding and admirable experience.
Below are four physical and emotional tips to support the male caregiver:
1) Recognize the emotions you are feeling –Being thrown into the role of a caregiver for the first time can be overwhelming and stressful. Perhaps you feel guilty because you think you aren’t doing enough, and you’re frustrated that you can’t do more. The stress you feel is not only the result of your caregiving situation but also the result of your perception of it. It is important to remember that you are not alone.
Steps to take:
• Identify the source of your stress. Ask yourself, what is causing the stress for me? Sources of stress might be too much to do, family disagreements, feelings of inadequacy, and the inability to say no.
• Talk with a supportive, understanding person about your feelings. This might be a friend, family member, or local support group.
• Use your sense of humor. It’s a great way to relieve tension and break barriers. Laughing is good for you physically and helps everyone around feel better.
• Learn and use stress-reduction techniques. Stress reducers can be simple activities such as walking, gardening, or having a cup of coffee with a friend.
2) Ask for and accept help – Despite the fact that family caregivers are drowning in responsibility or are really confused about what the next step should be, they often respond ‘no thanks’ when help is offered. Asking for and accepting help is a complex issue, but don’t try to go it alone.
Steps to take:
• Create a list of the tasks that need to get done in any given week, or at least those you are most concerned about. When you see how long the list is you’ll quickly understand why you are so tired and don’t have time for yourself.
• Recognize that asking for help is a sign of strength and not of weakness. It means you have a grasp on your situation and have come up with a proactive problem solving approach to make things easier and better.
• When a family member, friend or neighbor asks if they can help, take them up on it. Find out what they’re willing and able to do. For example, someone can offer companionship by walking with your spouse a few times a week. Or a neighbor can pick up a few things for you at the grocery store.
• Consider getting full-time or part-time caregiving assistance from a professional organization. In-home caregivers, such as Comfort Keepers can help with daily tasks.
3) Take care of your health – It is essential for caregivers to take care of their own health. Physical exhaustion often goes with the job of caregiving, especially when your spouse needs a great deal of physical assistance. Remember that if you get sick, injured or exhausted, you’ll no longer be able to help your loved one.
Steps to take:
• Work exercise into your normal routine, even if it means finding someone else to provide care while you walk or take an exercise class.
• Eat nutritious meals. Don’t give into stress-driven urges for sweets or drink too much alcohol.
• Get enough sleep. If you are kept up at night, try a nap during the day.
• Be sure to have regular medical checkups.
• Take a break. When you spend most of your time caring for your spouse, you still need time to take care of yourself. Listen to music, read a book, take a bath – do whatever you need to do to relax. By taking time out to care for yourself, you will have more energy to take care of your loved one.
4) Learn to balance caregiving and your career – As we all know, caregiving itself can be a fulltime commitment. Doctors’ appointments, your wife’s needs at home, and unexpected crises make it nearly impossible for you to maintain a regular work schedule. However, keeping your job may be very important to you for any number of reasons. Whether it’s for the salary, medical benefits, or personal satisfaction of working, you should not give up your job too soon.
Steps to take:
• Talk to your supervisor at work about your situation and needs in a way that expresses your concerns, both as a caregiver and a dedicated employee.
• Be understanding about your employer’s needs and work with him/her to agree on a plan that works for everyone.
• Look into home care options while you are at work.
• Try to view your job as respite time away from caregiving. It is time for you to focus on other issues, and have time to yourself.
This information is provided by Comfort Keepers, an in-home provider of non-medical care and safety technology. To read more about caregiving or Comfort Keepers click HERE.