Saturday, August 5, 2017

Aging in Place- Male Family Caregivers are Breaking Stereotypes

There are 40 million family caregivers in the United States helping with everyday activities and personal tasks ranging from bathing, dressing, wound care and medication management to transportation and finance.  The “typical” family caregiver is a 49-year old woman who takes care of a relative.  Men are not traditionally seen as caregivers.

A recent AARP Public Policy Institute  report suggests the the tradition is changing; men are increasingly filling care giving roles.  The report, Caregiving in the U.S., found that men represent 40 percent of all family caregivers.  That means that 6 million males serve as family caregivers.

Jean Accius, a Ph.D. with the AARP Public Policy Institute has penned an article explaining the ramifications gleaned from the pertinent data:
"These husbands, brothers, sons, sons-in-law, partners, friends, and neighbors are joining—either by choice, obligation, or necessity—the army of family caregivers providing care across the country. Male family caregivers are performing medical and nursing tasks as well as a range of personal care activities." 
In many cases, male family caregivers are caring for a spouse or partner. The PPI report shows that spousal caregivers in general face unique challenges, in part because they may lack an adequate support network.

There were notable differences, however, between males caring for a spouse and those caring for a parent.  Male caregivers, according to the report, provide more hours of care, and are more likely to be primary caregivers with little to no support from other family members, compared to male family caregivers taking care of a parent or other relative.
Men caring for a spouse reported having been a caregiver for a longer period of time than other unpaid male family caregivers (5.1 years compared to 3.9).

Dr. Accius reported:
"...the study found that male family caregivers were more likely (66 percent) to be working compared with female caregivers (55 percent). The large majority of employed male caregivers were working 40 or more hours per week at the time of caregiving. 
Regardless of gender, caregiving responsibilities often require family caregivers to make workplace accommodations. The study found that nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of male family caregivers had to make changes in the workplace as a result of their caregiving responsibilities [reference omitted].  Moreover, their caregiving duties affected their work in other significant ways:
  • Nearly half (48 percent) of male family caregivers went in late, left early, or took time off to provide care.
  • About 15 percent of male family caregivers took a leave of absence or went from working full time to part time to provide care.
  • Less than 10 percent of male family caregivers turned down a promotion (8 percent), received a warning about their performance or attendance (7 percent), or retired early or gave up working entirely (6 percent).
  • Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of male family caregivers indicated that their caregiving experience was moderately to very stressful.
  • Almost half (46 percent) of male family caregivers experienced moderate to severe physical strain due to caregiving responsibilities.
Qualitative studies indicated that younger men had more “difficulties” in the caregiving role and communicated particular “psychological stress” when having to choose between work responsibilities and caregiving responsibilities. [reference omitted].  More than one-third (37 percent) of male family caregivers did not inform their employers about their caregiving responsibilities. The percentage of male family caregivers who did not inform their supervisors was even higher for millennials (45 percent).
Despite this trend, though, considering the aging of the population, increases in life expectancy, and shrinking families, the supply of family caregivers is unlikely to keep pace with future demand.  Aging in place planning, therefore, is extremely important.  The planning shoul consider the unavailability of typical caregivers, and should consider the unavailability of family caregivers. 

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