Skip to content

50+: Live Better, Longer

Font Size
A
A
A

The Hardest Job a Man May Ever Have

Male Caregivers
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

Oct. 15, 2001 -- Don E. Duckett, Ralph Eikenberry, Gary Barg, and Paul Lindsley have never met, yet they have walked in each others' shoes. They are all caregivers for a wife or relative.

The National Family Caregivers Association says that results of a recent survey it conducted suggest that about one in four American adults served as caregiver for a family member in the last year. The best current estimate is that 22 million Americans are family caregivers, and of those about one in five are men.

Recommended Related to Healthy Seniors

Health Highlights: September, Healthy Aging Month

Each issue, WebMD the Magazine's "Health Highlights" focuses on a national health theme for the month with expert tips, reader comments, and eye-catching factoids. September is Healthy Aging month – follow these tips to stay at your peak! 1. Get moving Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy body and brain. 2. Stay social Take a class, volunteer, play games, see old friends, and make new ones. 3. Bulk up Eat beans and other high-fiber foods for digestive and heart health...

Read the Health Highlights: September, Healthy Aging Month article > >

Don E. Duckett cares for his wife who was diagnosed in 1996 with Pick's dementia, a type of rapidly progressing dementia that usually is diagnosed in middle-aged people. Duckett's wife was 56 when she was diagnosed.

"From the time of diagnosis patients usually live for five to seven years," Duckett tells WebMD. But during those years the patient becomes progressively more confused, frustrated, and angry. Memory fails, the patient can no longer bathe or dress himself or herself. They become incontinent. "Incontinent. When she was diagnosed, I didn't even know what incontinence was," says Duckett.

Eventually communication stops and the patient becomes silent. "My wife stopped talking a year ago," says Duckett. "I can't tell if she needs something, or if she is ill or in pain."

Sometimes All You Can Do Is Cheer

For Ralph Eikenberry, life as a caregiver is different. In his home in Forrest Village, Wash., Eikenberry, 74, tackles his share of the household cleaning tasks, while in the background his wife Margie, also 74, practices with her Hawaiian dance troupe, the Forrest Village Tutus. Eikenberry says he likes to watch the women dance because it gives him the opportunity to cheer on his wife's efforts because "so far caregiving for me is being a cheerleader."

Margie Eikenberry was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease four years ago. "It was a terrible shock for both us because we had both been remarkably healthy," says Eikenberry. When the shock subsided, Eikenberry, like Duckett, sought out information and support. For him the major resource has been the Parkinson's Foundation. "It recently came out with a guidebook for Parkinson's caregivers, and that is very helpful. We also have a Parkinson's center at our local hospital, and that is a good resource," says Eikenberry.

Although Eikenberry's caregiving responsibilities have not progressed to the stage described by Duckett, he says that it is still a full time job. For example, the couple takes a daily two-mile walk. "If I notice that Margie's gait is not right I will tell her to lengthen her stride, increase her arm swing," says Eikenberry.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Today on WebMD

blueberries
Eating for a longer, healthier life.
woman biking
How to stay vital in your 50s and beyond.
 
womans finger tied with string
Learn how we remember, and why we forget.
man reviewing building plans
Do you know how to stay healthy as you age?
 
fast healthy snack ideas
Article
how healthy is your mouth
Tool
 
dog on couch
Tool
doctor holding syringe
Slideshow
 
champagne toast
Slideshow
Two women wearing white leotards back to back
Quiz
 
Man feeding woman
Slideshow
two senior women laughing
Article