By Beth Dow, Home Helpers of GA & AL

Not only is Sunday, June 18 Father’s Day, but it is also Husband Caregiver Day.

In 2009 men accounted for 34 percent of the 65 million family caregivers. By 2012 that number had risen to 45 percent.

One reason for the increase is that in people over 65 years of age, Alzheimer’s is more prevalent in women than in men.  In people over 65, 3.9 million women have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s compared to 1.8 million men in the same age group.   Add to that – of people who are 65 or older – 20 percent will live until age 90, while 1 in 2 will develop Alzheimer’s after age 85.  With these statistics, the number of baby boomer husbands being caregivers will only grow.  

Men caregivers are different from women caregivers.  While they are very willing to step up and take on the caregiving role, men often report feeling more unprepared for the caregiving role than women do.  They are less likely to ask for help, and when they do ask for help it is typically after a crisis, like a fall or severe health deterioration of their loved one.

Men find it harder to admit the emotional and physical stress that caregiving has on them.  They are less likely to discuss any of their caregiving issues with other family members or friends.  And they don’t typically have the same tight social network that women often do, that could give them support.

As a caregiver, men may have to learn new tasks.  Traditionally household chores, such as laundry, cooking and general housework have been the wife’s responsibility, while the outside chores, have been assigned to the man.  Caregiving may also include bathing and dressing their wife, and the men find themselves having to learn how to apply makeup or fix hair.  All new territory for them.

The most important thing a male caregiver can do, or any caregiver can do, for their loved one, is to take care of themselves.  If you hurt your back, get ill, or fall into a deep depression, who will take of your wife?  Being her husband, does not mean that you should be the only one to provide her care.  Sometimes the best care you can give someone is care that someone else provides.  There is only one job that no one else can do: That is be her husband.  Everything else can be done by someone other than you.

Men often feel that caregiving is an extension of their role as a provider.  They feel if they do not take care of their wives, if they ask for help, they have not lived up to their commitment as her husband.  Think of it this way, if you had children, it was your role as a father to make sure they received an education.  So, you sent them to school.  Caregiving in the same.  It is your job to ensure that your wife is taken care of to the best of your ability.  There is no rule that says you must do it all alone.

On this Husband Caregiver Day, if you know someone that is a husband caregiver, ask them if you can help, and then help.  Cook a meal, pick up groceries, visit with their wife so they can get out.  And if you are a husband caregiver, ask for help.  Help is out there. You do not have to do this alone.

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Beth Dow is the owner of Home Helpers and Direct Link of GA & AL. For more information, you can reach her at 678-876-5118 or visit their website: local.homehelpershomecare.com/newnanga/home.