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The Hardest Job a Man May Ever Have

Male Caregivers

Learning to Seek Help and Support continued...

But the experience led him to a new career: he and his mother publish a bimonthly caregivers magazine. He says that when he started his publication he estimated that about 15% of caregivers are men but now he thinks that it more likely that 20%-25% of caregivers are men.

Men, says Barg, often have a difficult time adjusting to the role, but he says it may be easier to be a caregiver for a partner or spouse than for a parent. "When it comes to changing diapers or bathing, it is very difficult for a man to visualize doing this for his mother," says Barg. But he says, too, that men are changing because society is changing. Younger men are more comfortable in nurturing roles than their fathers were.

"Being a caregiver is probably easier for a man who is 30 to 50 than it is for a 50- to 80-year-old man," he says.

But regardless of age, Barg thinks that men may be particularly vulnerable to the depression associated with the 24/7 job of caregiving. He says that even a cursory scan of chat rooms will turn up ample evidence of this.

Caregiving can be overwhelming, which can often trigger depression, says NFCA founder Suzanne Mintz. So it is especially important for caregivers -- both women and men -- to seek help, usually by arranging respite care, meaning a person who takes over for the caregiver for a specified number of hours. Respite care can be arranged through local or national agencies, and for those lucky enough to qualify, respite care is paid for by state or federal programs. In Duckett's case, the nurse from the local hospital helped him arrange for respite care "and eventually I qualified for 100 hours a month," he says.

But even with the help of respite care, the years of intense caregiving have taken a physical toll from Duckett; he developed heart problems at the same time that his wife's illness progressed to point where caring for her at home was no longer possible.

Both sad and determined, Duckett seems to speak for many men when he says, "She is in a nursing home now. I know I am going to lose her. I can't stop that. But I'm doing all that I can to get help for other caregivers, especially men."

There are several resources available for caregivers. They include:

Eldercare Locator, http://www.aoa.gov/elderpage/locator.html;
Alzheimer's Association, http://www.alz.org/caregiver;
AARP, http://www.aarp.org;
Family Caregiver Alliance, http://www.caregiver.org;
National Alliance for Caregiving, http://www.caregiving.org;
National Association for Home Care, http://www.nahc.org;
National Caregiving Foundation, http://www.caregivingfoundation;
National Family Caregivers Association, http://www.nfcacares.org;
National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, http://www.nhpco.org;
National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities, http://www.nichcy.org;
National Mental Health Association, http://www.nmha.org;
National Stroke Association, http://www.stroke.org;
Rosalynn Carter Institute National Quality Caregiving Coalition, http://rci.gsw.peachnet.edu;
The Well Spouse Foundation, http://www.wellspouse.org.

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