Dads and Dementia

The story says that Noah summoned creatures two by two. He knew the world could only be remade with the help of couples. In dementia care settings, however, we note the relative absence of men. There are, of course, dedicated men who quietly care for wives and mothers with the disease. But male patients or professional caregivers are vastly outnumbered by women. This makes the contributions of men even more significant.

Between the Pond and the Woods

It takes two

Unfortunately, stress shortens the lives of many men before they reach the age when dementia rates skyrocket. My dad passed away 10 years before my mom ever showed symptoms of the disease. In the various activity programs my mom has attended, male participants are outnumbered by at least 3 to 1.

Men who become caregivers for a loved one have a more difficult time getting assistance outside the family. Most caregiver support groups are dominated by women. Men may be reluctant to share secret griefs in a forum where they are outnumbered. But I have seen some brave guys talk about their struggles to carry out tasks they never dreamed they’d be doing. Father’s Day is a perfect time to thank them and recognize what their contributions mean to the family.

Last month, my boyfriend went with me to my mom’s afternoon activity group. He was treated like a rock star. Although he is tall and strong, I think he would have gotten a hero’s welcome even if he was a pipsqueak. One of the women in the program walked up to him and said, ‘I like, I like.’ It was the first time I ever heard her speak. She couldn’t take her eyes off him.

My sweetheart says he’d be a mess if one of his parents got dementia. He doesn’t think he has the fortitude to care for someone with the disease. But like a lot of men, I think he has a hidden reservoir of emotional strength that would quickly surface if he needed to care for his mom or dad. None of us really expect to find ourselves in the caregiving role. It just happens, and then you try to rise to the occasion. Gratitude is due to the rare and special men who discovered their care was indispensable. Your loved ones can never thank you enough.


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