Vail Daily column: Caregiving is not just for women | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Caregiving is not just for women

While it may be generally accepted that most caregivers are women, there is a growing amount of males who are choosing to take on the caregiving role not only within their own family, but also as a career. Some studies indicate that male caregivers may account for more than a third or more of the caregiving population.

Just 15 years ago, men made up only 19 percent of caregivers in America. According to a recent report from the National Alliance for Caregivers, male caregivers may account for nearly 40 percent of all caregivers.

There are many factors leading to men assuming the caregiver role, including changes in the economy resulting in early retirements and layoffs, the fact that families are no longer living near each other, longer life expectancy and changing gender role perceptions. With more men stepping up to become the family caregiver, it is important to look at how men approach the roll of full-time caregiver.

MEN ARE FIXERS

One of the biggest differences we see between men and women caregivers is in the approach to care. Men are fixers. They approach care with a strategic, fix-it mentality. However, this too often only extends to that of which they already know. Studies have shown that male caregivers frequently do not often seek out additional help from the community, library and senior centers. Rather, they often rely on the web, friends and family.

Much like their female counterparts, male caregivers are likely to face a long list of competing demands for their time and attention. This is especially true if they are still working and must balance the demands of a career with the needs of their loved one. This balancing act is never easy and can lead to stress and anxiety.

DEALING WITH PERCEPTIONS

Perhaps one of the most challenging obstacles men face as caregivers is the perception that all caregivers are women. Some men report challenges with employers, medical professionals or social service agencies not taking their needs or concerns seriously. While in this modern era of male/female equality, men are often more apprehensive to ask for time off work to care for a loved one. Maybe men may feel that they could be perceived as less committed to their job, or be leery of criticism of coworkers. Hopefully, these instances are decreasing as the number of male caregivers continues to rise.

CAREGIVERS NEED CARE, TOO

For male caregivers to avoid burnout, it is important they take time to recharge their batteries. Male caregivers need to pay particular attention to built up frustration and anxiety. They need to talk and share their feelings and frustrations. It makes you no less a man to ask for assistance and advice.

All caregivers, both male and female, need to recognize the importance of taking time to do something for themselves. Exercise, reading, mediation, going to a movie, any activity that gets you away from your responsibilities for a while and lets you focus on yourself and your needs is important. Caregivers need to be cared for, too. The more you focus on caring for yourself, the better you can care for your loved one.

UNDER APPRECIATED WORK

Supporting caregivers, both male and female, is extremely important. Their work is relentless and often under appreciated. It is essential that we all recognize the important role caregivers, both male and female, play.

Caregiving for a family member or friend is all about caring. Don’t be reticent and let frustration and anxiety sway you from assisting those who need help. Ask for and seek assistance. It’s out there!

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. Contact Haims at 970-328-5526 and http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns.