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Carol Bradley Bursack, Published November 14 2010

Bursack: Let’s not forget male caregivers

Dear Readers: This is a busy month for celebrating caregivers. It’s National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, National Hospice/Palliative Care Month and National Caregivers Month. Many readers could be a part of all three of these awareness campaigns, if you had time.

It’s likely that many of you saw the ABC News special titled “The Shriver Report 2010,” which recently aired over an entire week. If you missed this report, go to the ABC News website and type in “Shriver Report.” The full series is meant to highlight the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease, ongoing research, the need for funding, and the toll Alzheimer’s care takes on caregivers.

In this series, I was pleased to see Shriver repeatedly referring to the wonderful care her brothers were providing for their father, who has Alzheimer’s.

A few years back, when I wrote my book, “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories,” I purposely searched out male caregivers. They weren’t easy to find at that time, but find them I did. The men I interviewed for that book were adult child caregivers, caring for their mother, their father, or both parents.

One man I’ve known for decades cares for his wife, who has multiple sclerosis. I’ve had enormous admiration for this couple, as they have been exceptionally courageous in facing the battle against aggressive MS, together.

Another man I’ve corresponded with stands out, as he has shared his excellent tips on caring for a mate with Alzheimer’s disease to this column. He, too, is in his 80s, and doggedly works as his wife’s caregiver, knowing when to get outside help, but still providing the bulk of her care.

Not all caregivers can continue to give hands-on care into their elder years, or even as adult children. Many men supervise the care of their mates, their parents or their children, acting as advocates and safety nets.

During the past few years, I’ve met many other male caregivers, including a man who, for over 25 years, has cared for his daughter with severe disabilities. In all of these cases, caregiving has only enhanced the masculinity of these nurturing caregivers.

Let’s celebrate all caregivers this month, including paid professionals. However, on this day, I’d like to single out male caregivers for special notice. In my opinion, they have gone under-recognized for too long.


Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carol@mindingourelders.com.