More men stepping into caregiver roles, study finds

More men stepping into caregiver roles, study finds

Women have traditionally taken the role of family caregiver throughout life; however, according to recent studies, that may be drastically changing.

Two recent reports from the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Alliance for Caregiving show that 40 percent of caregivers are now men, up from just 19 percent 15 years ago.

Researchers believe this major shift is likely due to the daunting statistics that show women are more affected by conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia than men—3.4 million women over the age of 65, as compared to 1.8 million men.

The role of the caregiver typically defaults to the healthy spouse, researchers say. Additionally, both studies found that changes in the economy, including layoffs and early retirements, shifting gender roles and longer life expectancies have all lead to more men taking up the role of caregiver.

Changing roles
Dr. Birinder Marwah, gerontologist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, said he has definitely seen an increase in the number of men as caregivers in his practice.

“The usual thinking has been that the main risk for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is age—the longer you live, the more likely you are to develop it,” he said. “Since women typically live longer than men, it makes sense that there would be more women diagnosed.”

And Dr. Marwah says there are differences in how male caregivers approach caregiving.

“From what I have observed, men tend to handle their caregiving tasks more methodically,” said Dr. Marwah.  “I’ve seen this particularly in men who are in their 60s and 70s. They don’t seem to get as emotional about illness as some female caregivers might.”

Dr. Marwah also notes that more of his female patients tend to have much easier time as caregivers than his male patients who are caring for their spouses.

“Men really struggle with things like taking care of their wives’ personal hygiene, the household chores and meals.”

Dr. Marwah he says he believes men feel more obligated to take care of their wives personally or may be more comfortable with an assisted living facility rather than placing them in a nursing home.

“I’ve had conversations with male caregivers specifically about asking for help,” he says. “Men seem to be more willing to ask for help from friends and family. It’s admirable.”

In addition, Dr. Marwah says male patients to also like a lot of details when it comes to health care costs.

“They will ask specific, direct questions—How do you do this? How do you do that?” he says. “They are often very focused on a particular problem at hand and how they can get that solved.”

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.