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More Men as Alzheimer's Caregivers

- Friday, February 17, 2012

In the last 15 years, the number of men caring for loved ones with Alzheimer's or dementia has more than doubled, from 19 to 40%, according to the Alzheimer's Association. The trend mirrors the higher number of women over the age of 65 in the U.S. with the disease - 3.4 million compared to 1.8 million men. Those demographics have changed the tone of local support group meetings by adding a chorus of male perspectives.

It has also prompted an outpouring of new books, organizations and online resources for men learning how to be nurturers.

Experts attribute the increase in male caregivers to several societal changes, including evolving gender expectations as well as new life expectancy rates.

“Men say, 'this is hard. It's challenging, I didn't realize we would ever be at this point, but I'm not giving up,'" said Edrena Harrison, a social worker and specialist for the National Caregiving Center.

The sentiment is shared by some husbands, who find themselves making dinner, doing laundry and coordinating doctor's appointments for the first time as senior citizens.

In 2010, doctors diagnosed Patti with frontotemporal dementia. She is now unable to drive, perform simple household tasks or follow and participate in conversations.

Since then, her husband has sharpened his cooking skills. He took over the household duties and has grown used to guiding Patti through conversations with friends and family. He also joined a support group for caregivers of those with dementia to learn how to cope with and handle the new lifestyle.

He fears the day when she needs more help than he can provide, and he wants to find an assisted living facility for memory care that he can trust.

But for now, he said, he does what he can for his wife.

Philly.com