When it comes to coping with aging parents, men are more vulnerable – and face a higher risk for eldercare stress
By Colleen Van Horn, RN, BSN, PHN, CCM
Caregiving of any kind comes with a fair share of stress; and for those who find themselves coping with aging parents or loved ones and acting as the primary caregiver, these stressors can be particularly acute and emotionally burdensome. But now, it turns out that men are even more vulnerable to eldercare stress than their female counterparts – and incidentally, the number of men taking on caregiving roles for aging family members has doubled over the past 15 years.
According to a recent report from New America Media, data collected by the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Alliance for Caregiving shows that, as of 1996, only 19% of primary caregivers were men. By 2009, that number had increased to 40%. Research suggests that a number of factors, including economic hardship, smaller families and the exponential incidence of Alzheimer’s disease (which affects more women than men), have all contributed to this statistical shift. But thanks to a variety of male genetic and social traits, this upswing in male-dominated caregiving may be putting men at risk for higher degrees of eldercare stress. The following traits and tendencies may contribute to added stress for male caregivers:
- Men may be less socially prepared for caregiving roles; and because caregiving has traditionally been a realm dominated by women, feelings of inexperience alone can compound male caregivers’ stress levels and leave them feeling unprepared. From dealing with basic household tasks like cooking and cleaning to managing personal care and problem behaviors like incontinence, bathing and feeding, men may feel overwhelmed – and because many males are also socially trained to avoid asking for help, this can lead to an even greater struggle than may be necessary.
- Men are less likely to talk about their feelings, potentially increasing the likelihood of isolation and emotional frustration during difficult times.
- Compared to women, men rarely prioritize self-care – and while most caregivers tend to place the needs dependents above their own, the risks of neglecting one’s own health and well-being affect both the caregiver and the elder alike.
- Many caregiving resources are marketed towards and designed for women – an outdated but real trend that may leave men feeling alienated.
Because male caregiving in America is still considered a novelty in the eyes of many, male-oriented resources and support groups are in short supply. However, if men can take pride and confidence from the praise they receive as caregivers, and use innate problem-solving and task-oriented skills to make caregiving seem more manageable, they will enjoy a better chance of success and reduced stress. Furthermore, recognizing that asking for help is an effective strategy for improved care as opposed to a sign of weakness can help all caregivers, male and female alike, survive and thrive while providing high-quality care to aging loved ones. To learn more about geriatric care management and professional eldercare guidance, contact Innovative Healthcare Consultants by visiting www.innovativehc.com.
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