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I’m a busy, single male who is the only child available to care for my parents as they get older. I’ve noticed they’re starting to rely on me more and more, and I’m worried that I’m just not cut out for the task of caregiving. How can I be sure that I’m going to be able my parents the level of care they need? – Robert, 50

Caregiving is tough for everyone, and believe it or not, it’s sometimes even harder on men than it is on women. The fact is, society has stereotyped men has protectors, not nurturers – so they often worry that caregiving won’t come naturally to them. The good news is, you’re not alone. Studies show that 40% of the caregiving population is actually men. Here are some of the common challenges that these male caregivers face, and how you can conquer them:

Delegation. Many men don’t like to ask for help; others don’t even know how to recognize that they need it in the first place. But you need to treat caregiving the way you would any job – no one (not even Superman!) can do it alone. Make a list of your duties, and assign what you can to family members and close friends. Share this list with them and set clear expectations in terms of what needs to be accomplished.
Communication. This doesn’t always come easily, but caregiving can take a tremendous toll on the body AND the mind -  so it’s important to talk openly about how you’re feeling. Whether with friends, a support group or therapist – an outlet for your frustrations is key. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t expect to be able to effectively take care of others.
Conflicts at work. Many men (and women, for that matter) avoid bringing their personal situations into the workplace, fearing loss of respect or even losing their job if they need to take time off work for their caregiving duties. But the fact is that many of today’s businesses understand that caregiving has become a major factor in their employees’ lives, and are stepping up their efforts to provide support. Some have even instituted policies such as telecommuting, flexible hours, split shifts and flex spending accounts for caregiver services. Find out what your company offers to see if it can help bring some extra piece of mind.
No matter what the challenge, following your instincts and make sure to pay attention to the needs of your loved one.  Good luck!

Over the last 40 years, Dr. Marion (Marion Somers, Ph.D.) has worked with thousands of seniors and their caregivers as a geriatric care manager and elder care expert. It is now her goal to help caregivers everywhere through her book (“Elder Care Made Easier”), iPhone apps (www.elder911.net) web site, columns, public service announcements, and more. For more information, visit www.DrMarion.org

Beth Sanders

Last Modified April 14, 2010 @ 6:54 pm
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