By Keisha Jackson
Keisha Jackson is a 22-year retired Air Force veteran. After caring for her mother who had Stage Four inoperable lung cancer, Keisha started learning about caregiver resources in order to share with other caregivers.
During a caregiver support group I attended last week, two caregivers expressed concerns regarding each having a parent with dementia. One voiced, “Where do I start?” (finding resources for a father). The other asked, “How can I protect my mother’s finances, even from herself?” Something else they have in common—both are male family caregivers.
At an America’s Heroes Group roundtable for family caregivers, guest panelist Mike Carducci, who was the secondary family caregiver of his father (his wife Bobbi, the primary), talked about his father, an Army veteran who had dementia, as well as some (mis)perceptions of male caregivers.
Carducci says one (mis)perception is, “If a man says he’s a family caregiver, he could be seen as an opportunist, i.e., “what’s in it for me?”
Ironically, during a different caregiver support group I attended two months ago, all attendees were female. When the facilitator mentioned that a male had expressed interest in joining the group, one caregiver replied, “Be careful; he could be looking to meet women,” and added, “I wouldn’t feel comfortable with a male attending.”
Another common (mis)perception Carducci remarks, is that, “Male family caregivers only manage finances or provide transportation.” That’s not true. Men are giving injections, providing wound care, toileting, bathing, managing medications, and more.
Whether it’s cultural or societal, often females are perceived as the family nurturers (caregivers). However, according to a 2017 report published by AARP, “40 percent of Americans caring for a loved one are male.”
Male family caregivers like Carducci are breaking stereotypes. They are stepping up to the plate and rolling up their sleeves to provide daily care. They are leaving work early, staying up late, and making appointments. They are caring for amputees, loved ones with PTSD, terminal illnesses, etc.
Unfortunately, many men do not talk about being family caregivers. They see themselves as the “fixers.” Asking for help or expressing feelings could be perceived as a failure or weakness.
Whether male or female, being a caregiver isn’t necessarily a choice; it can be tough and requires developing a new level of patience.
Mike Carducci spent 31 years as a civilian federal employee with the U.S. Department of Defense. He is a certified caregiver advocate. He and his wife Bobbi, co-host the “RodgerThat.show,” a weekly podcast that guides caregivers through the haze of dementia.