As the shift in traditional gender roles slowly makes its way through the traditional family structure and the workplace, a new survey shows that the face of family caregivers is changing, too.
In the early-to-mid 90s, more than 80% of family caregiving was performed by women. But according to a National Alliance for Caregiving study, that number is now down to 60%. In other words, 4 out of 10 family caregivers are now male.
Since men have increased their roles to be active parents and participants in household duties, this statistic shouldn’t be particularly startling. However, the emergence of men as primary caregivers has implications beyond just the numbers.
As in many other areas of life, men and women often approach caregiving differently. Men tend to have a more problem-solving orientation to caregiving and will look at such a situation as a series of tasks to be accomplished. In a twist on the old stereotype of men on a car trip becoming lost and not liking to ask for directions, many more men than women will tend to go it alone, and not get the support that women do. It is much more common for women than for men to be thrust into a caregiving role, whether for a child or a parent, and older men especially may find caring for a spouse or a parent unfamiliar and uncomfortable. They may lack the skills and confidence to take on personal care and emotional support for a loved one.
The National Alliance for Caregiving study also notes that while only 40% of women will retain full-time job responsibilities while also caring for a family member, a full 60% of men will not decrease their paid workload. Today, men are still more often the primary breadwinner and feel pressure to continue as such.
On the other hand, men are historically accustomed to delegating, and as a caregiver, they will seek outside help more frequently than women.
Home care agencies have also seen an increase in the number of male caregivers, although not anywhere near the level seen in families. At Family Resource Home Care, male caregivers currently comprise approximately 10% – 15% of the workforce.