Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Realizing the Men are Caregivers too.

(picture from Columbia magazine).

My in-laws have their other children and spouses, as well as Frank (and myself when asked), helping them with daily living needs and taking them to doctor appointments. Frank is also overseeing their finances. This seemed to stand out even more when I came across an article in the Knight of Columbus magazine, Columbia July 2014, titled 'Sandwich Generation'. Author Brian Caulfield writes that he shares the caregiving of his parents with 2 brothers. Being a dad and husband himself as well, he asks how much his efforts helps either family.

Many baby boomers find themselves in the same situation also juggling work demands. One big point he makes, is that this situation is a blessing, although many days it seems like a chore. A blessing when it comes to it being a good place for all involved -

* it keeps us away from all our electronics and mindless diversions we have;
* that we are needed can be a double edged sword: it may boost our self-image and confidence but it keeps us humble as we realize we cannot change the aging process;
* we face dignity of people as our parent struggle with possibly having to ask for help with toileting needs
* our mom still want to take care of others while not being able to take care of herself;
* at home, we see our families stepping in to make the most of us being away.

As Brian writes, "We are weighed down by the struggle and the work and the hope we pit against the stubborn fact of physical decline and death. But we are also saved from our natural presumption of good health. Watching our parents age and weaken keeps us close to our own mortality, and if we are wise, we stay mindful of the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. I was privileged to be present when my dad received the sacrament of anointing and witnessed the real emotional, spiritual and even physical renewal that ensued. When I told my sons of this experience, they were sad that granddad almost died, but they were also drawn more deeply into the faith that reaches beyond the grave". has an article, "The Male Caregiver" by Dave Singleton. Dave writes that it is harder for men especially when it comes to being the caretaker of the parent of the opposite sex. His mom found it hard to get use to him helping with her personal needs but sees it as love helping with her needs and keeping her privacy and dignity as best can. His article also states that " A 2012 analysis by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project found that men represent 45 percent of all family caregivers. And the Alzheimer's Association reported that between 1996 and 2011, the percentage of men caring for a family member with Alzheimer's disease or other dementia more than doubled, from 19 to 40 percent".

The article cites several reasons for the change: more women are in the workforce so men have to step in, many families have children living out-of-state so if there is a male child close by he becomes the caregiver, more employers are letting their male employees take time off to stay home. Not to overlook is the fact that men have the same health issues to deal with as women, so they need to remember to take care of themselves such as high blood pressure/hypertension, arthritis, and high cholesterol. These are the three most widely experienced physical maladies, while nearly a quarter of respondents suffer from depression. Not to forget financial burdens; shows that in the past year 40% of male caregivers spent over $5000.00 on caregiving expenses. goes on to offer 3 tips for the men:

*Educate yourself. Learn as much as you can about the care recipient's diseases and/or disabilities. "Talk to the doctor, a social worker, or a geriatric care manager," says Trina Sauceda, one of the founders of The Let's Group, a website focused on aging and caregiving. "Ask questions of healthcare workers. Discuss issues and find out what works for the care recipient and you. Inquire about outside services that can provide assistance or support."

Share your experiences and get support. Typically, men don't talk about caregiving stress, but not sharing what's really going on is a stress unto itself. "Acknowledge your emotions, because you are not a robot, you are a human being," says Harrison. "Be honest with yourself. You can't do it all. Know that stress, anger, and frustration are common feelings among caregivers. Take care of your health, too." Caregiving is a lonely job for all, but especially so when you look around and don't see members of your tribe. Explore the growing number of support groups for male caregivers.

Lead with and value your strengths. Everyone brings their own abilities to the fore with caregiving and, while skills may be different, they are equally important. If managing finances and creating schedules for doctor appointments and medications comes more easily to you, focus on those and get help, if you can, for other, more daunting aspects of caregiving. "Just because a man is managing Mom's finances instead of giving her a bath doesn't mean he isn't caregiving," says Tucker. "Men have always been nurturers, but not always in the same ways as women. If you're always looking for solutions, then use your typical 'fixer' predisposition to its full advantage and find solutions with professionals."

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