Category Archives: Support for Caregivers

Posts mention resources and suggestions that can help caregivers stay healthy.

The Caregiving Family

Family is on my mind. We’ve been working together to clear out my mom’s former home so we can rent it to help pay her medical costs.  For two weeks, my sister and I spent many hours sorting and cleaning. A cousin graciously persuaded her husband and son to move some heavy furniture. When you’re doing something so sad and hard, support from others seems like manna.

My sister and I didn’t always have this kind of calm, rational relationship. At the beginning of my mom’s illness, we disagreed about many things. During the first few years, we battled our way through a few angry scenes. Over time, it became clear that the stress surrounding Mom’s dementia clouded our efforts to talk to each other. Certain kinds of decisions — about medical options, about living situations — throw you back to a childhood pattern. Instead of working things out, your emotional gears shift suddenly and without your permission.

It becomes clear after a while, that if you allow yourself to have conversations about highly charged matters while you are wound up, the discussions are more likely to escalate into arguments. This is especially true if you are the primary caregiver and you haven’t had a break before discussing a sensitive issue. Take a breather before you take on a conflict!

Thoughts about family also came up during one of the sessions I did for the 21 Day Meditation challenge. One notion of the meditation was that “ideally family members are committed to each other.” But we all know that many caregivers have been pushed into taxing, solitary labor when their siblings or children fail to provide help.  A helpful note in the Chopra meditation was that “if we are not born into a nurturing family we can create one from our circle of friends.” Reaching out to get support from faith communities, friends, or neighbors may be the best way to grow your “family” resources if biological kin won’t help.

The family meditation also recommended treating those in your family — whether its a group linked by DNA or shared concern — as  “precious, valued, essential parts of life.” For that reason, I want to express my deep gratitude for the kindness and generosity of cousins, neighbors, friends, and compassionate strangers who have helped my mother and our family during mom’s battle with dementia. My sister, of course, deserves a million thanks for working with me to forge a relationship governed by respect and shared concern for our mom.      ♥♥♥!

Fathers, Sons, and Dementia

It’s easy to forget how many fathers and sons are immersed in the dementia epidemic. The longer female lifespan gives women more time to develop dementia and, around the world, most caregivers are also female. But the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that the proportion of men serving as caregivers for spouses and other family members has doubled — from 19% to 40% –in the past 15 years.

Men in the caregiver role share many of the same burdens as their female counterparts, but their lives are complicated in different ways. For example, more male caregivers are working outside the home. A report from the National Caregivers Alliance suggests that though men and women devote about the same amount of time to caregiving, 82 percent of male caregivers hold full-time jobs, compared to 70 percent of female caregivers. Since most male caregivers are fully engaged in the paid workforce, more than two thirds of them have to request changes to their work schedule such as going in late, leaving early, or taking time off.

Their wholehearted embrace of technology gives men a small advantage: they’re more likely to use the Internet as a caregiving resource. But since they spend about 19 hours a week on caregiving activities outside of their jobs, these guys are shouldering a lot of weight.

When writing about men who give this kind of support to a wife or mother, a few stellar fellows come to mind. Their contributions as fathers, sons and caregivers add infinite value to their families. They are caring people, to be sure. But they’re also tenacious and when needed will use their horns to protect the people they love. I sincerely hope that someone made them breakfast today and provided at least one hug. Caregivers shouldn’t have to forage for food or appreciation. To the men among us: Happy Father’s Day!