When it comes to helping aging parents, there can be many differences in how you can and should approach Dad vs. Mom from the get go. Caring for your father or husband or uncle or grandfather or brother can require unique communication choices and understanding of their needs.
What Did You Say?
Who’s getting older? Not me, say the men. Anecdotally, men—more so than women–tend to deny that they are aging or feeling more frail or in need of any assistance. This head-in-the-sand approach makes communicating about plans for care a distinct challenge.
Some do’s and don’ts when it comes to talking with the man in your life about care.
Don’t: “Dad, you just can’t do the things you enjoy anymore because you’re too old and frail.”
Do: Tell him you love him and would like to spend time doing some of his favorite activities together, including giving him a ride.
Don’t: “Hon, you need help!”
Do: Ask what this man would do if he were in your shoes and was concerned for your safety and worried about your future independence.
Don’t: Hide his car keys and say, “Haven’t seen ‘em!” when he tries to leave.
Do: Involve a third-party professional to do the talking, such as their primary health care provider, who can share data, check eyesight, and offer solutions such as moving to a place with alternative transportation.
The fact is that more women than men are family caregivers. Even though statistics show that more men than in previous generations are stepping up to be family caregivers women remain the majority. This can lead to some awkward and some physically compromising situations.
Before you agree to be a sole caregiver, perhaps honoring someone’s wishes, consider that care needs change over time depending on chronic conditions, reactions to medications, and more. For example, a daughter may be committed to taking her Dad to the doctor occasionally, but not be prepared to help him in and out of the shower to get ready for those appointments.
Or, a wife may be doing all of the grocery shopping, meal prep, and housekeeping, but not be physically able to lift her husband out of their bed. A 2015 AARP report, “Caregiving in the U.S.” found that one in five caregivers “report a high level of physical strain as a result of their caregiving duties.”
When it comes to caring for a male loved one, the right caregiver(s) and approach to care will vary depending on individual personality, preferences and needs. Just keep in mind that your approach as an adult child, spouse or relative will need to be adapted to the fact that men in general respond differently than women do to accepting care.