By Eunice Lehmacher
I have a friend who has two boys and a girl. Her high school daughter sometimes cooks the family dinner and helped my friend with personal care after surgery. Her older son tends to help with cooking less often. I only have sons so both of my boys learned to cook when my husband and I were working during their middle school years.
Caregiving starts young but continues when our parents get older. Fifty-three to 68 percent of caregivers are women, according the Family Caregiver Alliance. The Caregiver Alliance report male caregivers are less likely to help with baths and personal care than women caregivers.
Sometimes men are the only choice. My mother-in-law only has sons. The two who live nearby are single. Like many older women, she has problems with her grown sons helping her in the bathroom and they are uncomfortable doing her personal care. One elderly woman I knew only took showers and baths in her underwear because she knew her son (who lived with her) would be the one to come if she needed help.
Men are no way less capable caregivers! How can we help male caregivers?
If you’re raising a son, teach him to do caregiving tasks when he is young. Don’t assume that only girls can cook, clean and help with caregiving. Take your sons and daughters to visit the elderly. If you don’t have nearby relatives, visit a nursing home. Remember you’re preparing them to take care of you later.
If you know a man who is a caregiver, offer help. Men are often overlooked as caregivers since we tend to expect that of women. Let men talk about their frustrations and offer praise and support. Men, like women, sometimes give up their jobs to care for their mothers or sisters. Honor his decision by not asking him when he’ll go back to work; instead praise him for his choice to be a caregiver.
If you’re a health care professional, show the same respect to men that you would to women when they contact you. When a woman talks about her concerns of having her son help her, reassure her and remind her men are quite capable at caring.
If you’re a business owner, offer family restrooms where caregivers of the opposite gender can go in and help or offer to stand in front of the ladies room so that they have the privacy they need.
If you’re a male caregiver, thank you! Even if your mom, wife or sister can’t thank you, we are grateful for your love and caring. Consider going to a caregiver support group like the ones offered at the Prisma Health Cottingham Hospice House or find support online at www. malecaregivercommunity.com. And remember you also need some time off. Ask your friends to help so you can attend to your own health and leisure needs.
Eunice Lehmacher, a licensed independent social worker, is the bereavement coordinator at Prisma Health Hospice of the Foothills in Seneca. For additional information about the program, visit ghs.org/healthcareservices/hospice-of-the-foothills/.