Men often feel unprepared when their role in the family changes. Even if, they played a significant part in child raising (changing diapers, bathing, reading to them, holding them when they cry, etc.), they do not know how to help an adult that needs help with ADLs (activities of daily living). It is just something that you do. You may have seen your mom or dad help their parents or each other when needed. The word “caregiver” never entered your mind. Maybe, “caregiver” is a negative word these days.
October 19, 2022
Ruck up – “man up” for a difficult situation
I like that phrase. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, the sentiment is “handle it.” You can handle it and you will need help. Everything may be okay for a year or so, but, eventually, you will need help. Learn to delegate. You will still have plenty to do.
I did not identify as a caregiver because I was not doing hands-on care. I was helping out. I was doing what needed to be done. Along with working full-time and dealing with my own home and life with kids. I was scheduling, and I was seeing to her needs. I ran errands, took her to doctor appointments, cleaned the house, mowed the yard, and did the laundry.
I did not want to be seen as a caregiver. Maybe it was because I did not want to admit to myself the reality of the situation. If I did, then it would be real. I did not want to be seen as a caregiver because it made me feel weak. I wanted to “fix it,” but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to be a caregiver because it meant I had to give up some things that I wanted to do. I didn’t want to give up my life and free time. If I admitted that I was a caregiver, I would have to make changes in my life.
I did not realize that I had choices, opportunities, and helpers willing to help. I could have boundaries and provide good care. I could take care of my own needs and my family’s needs as well as care for my mom and my dad, who was the primary caregiver.
My dad never identified as a caregiver. This was his wife and he was going to keep her at home and do what needed to be done. He learned a lot. He learned how to cook a little, clean the house, do the laundry, pay the bills, make doctor appointments, etc.
He never talked about how he felt. It didn’t matter, he had a job to do and it was going to get done. A few years later, a few mini-strokes later, a personality change and a decline in physical health all began to take their toll. Mama was not rational and daddy did not know what to do or how to handle it. He finally told me that he did not know how much more he could take. Long story short, we got her the help she needed (when daddy stopped fighting us) and things improved immensely.
He stayed in the CCU (critical care unit) area for families from the first visit until the last visit. He got to visit 10 minutes about every 4 hours. I couldn’t get him to leave, even when I was there. He finally agreed to stay with me at my house (which was 20 minutes away versus an hour from where he lived). Mama was there for about a week. She did not make it.
He took early retirement and did what needed to be done for his family. He loved her and had responsibilities as a man and husband. My brother and I saw his example of how you take care of your family. Was he perfect? No. Is that a requirement? No. Did he love her? Yes. Did he do the best he could? Yes. Was he a good caregiver? Yes.
My brother and I saw as we were growing up that you help your family in whatever way that you can. You jump in and do what is needed. We didn’t think anything about it, we just did it. That is the way a lot of us were raised.
That is great, but nobody really talked about the stress and emotions that you deal with while helping. Times were different when I was growing up only about 50% of the females or moms worked outside of the home. It is much higher than that today. Men are more hands-on with child rearing too. Good thing, too. 45% of caregivers are now men. They need different things than women caregivers. Hell, one thing is that they need to identify as “caregivers.”
Men approach caregiving responsibilities differently from the way women do. Men focus on tasks and practical things that need to be done. Not so much on the nurturing tasks such as bathing, toileting, or dressing them. They can do them, but they need some training. Men are problem solvers and they tend to hire help to do some of the responsibilities that they either cannot do or do not want to do.
How frustrated might you be if you had never changed the sheets or cooked a meal? Yes, you can learn but you can also hire that stuff out.
The strong silent types are those that will have major health issues sooner rather than later. Sadness is a part of all caregiving. Things that are lost deserve to be grieved. You may even hear men say, “What good does talking about it do?” It keeps crap from getting bottled up and further stressing you out. I get it, being stoic is about self-preservation. You can’t deal with the sadness, anger, and anxiety so you push it all down. It will eventually all come up and out.
You are often unprepared and usually overwhelmed when the need hits. Why is identifying as a caregiver a good thing? It opens you up to possibilities of help and care. It also helps your primary care doctor know what to look out for in your own health needs.
Can you be a man and be a caregiver too? I think you can. Some men may feel it makes them look weak. That is not true. A caregiver has to be strong both physically and mentally. It is a very hard job. Strength under control is how I look at it. You have the physical strength when you need it, but you can be kind, nurturing, and loving too. To me, that is a protector. Another good thing about men as caregivers is that they are more vocal advocates for their loved one.
Guys, you may feel that you are failing if you aren’t able to “fix-it.” You are not a failure. Sometimes, things cannot be fixed. You have to be strong enough to let things “be as they are.” That sucks and it hurts. It doesn’t mean that we do not have hope or work toward goals, but we can accept things just as they are, right now. I can accept reality but I never give up.
You will feel alone. You will feel resentment. You will begin the grieving process before they are gone. It is your job to take care of your own physical and emotional needs. If you don’t then you will not be an effective caregiver for very long. Then what?
Place your to-do chores list on the refrigerator and leave a place for names of who will do the chore. People usually ask what you need or what you need to be done. Of course, you can’t think of a thing when they ask…
This way they can check the list on the refrigerator and pick what they can help with. Yes, you can put a time frame or day on the chore that needs to be done. Put everything that someone else could do on your list and see what you get.
- Dinner Monday
- Dinner Tuesday
- Dinner Thursday
- Laundry Wednesday (take home and bring back)
- Clean the bathrooms
- Mow the yard
- Clean the gutters
- Change the sheets Friday
- Vacuum, Sweep, Mop
- Sit with her from X to Y on Friday
- Take her to the beauty parlor on ______ at _____
Getting help is not a sign of weakness, it is a strategy for being successful.