This week, guest blogger, Bob O’Toole, President, Informed Eldercare Decisions, LLC, writes that,
Kelly Greene, writing in the Wall Street Journal (10/13/12), reports that despite the traditional stereotype of American women bearing the sole responsibility of caring for frail elderly family members, 45% of family caregivers are, in fact, men. Citing a Pew Research Center report published in July 2012, Greene writes that the significant percentage of men assuming the role of family caregiver also hold down jobs.
The fact that women of working age who care for aging family members suffer a significant financial drop in earnings and benefits has been widely cited in numerous studies published in recent years. The Wall Street Journal article reveals that working men are also feeling the financial impact of trying to balance work and elder caregiving responsibilities. "Lost wages from caring for parents will cost men who are 50-plus an average $89,107 in 2011 dollars over their lifetime," writes Greene. They also stand to lose an estimated $144,609 in Social Security benefits and $50,000 in pension benefits.
Why More Men?
Leann Reynolds, president of Homewatch CareGivers, a Colorado-based home care provider, told the Journal that "the aging of the population means more elderly parents and spouses to care for with fewer children to help. And those children often are more geographically dispersed."
Men, says Reynolds, are less likely to be aware of, or seek out, help and "...act more like case managers or care coordinators, [while] daughters tend to provide more of the personal care..."
In response to this growing need, Homewatch CareGivers now offers an online community for men who are faced with the responsibility of providing critical support to family members who are ill, disabled, or elderly.
Many large companies offer free information and referral services for caregivers. "I think men miss the resources they could get through their employer," says Sandy Markwood, a MetLife gerontologist who has studied family caregiving extensively.
Lillian Rubin, author of 60 On Up: The Truth About Aging in America, writing in Salon.com last fall noted that caring for aging parents has become the baby boom generation’s "... most agonizing life crisis."
"Listen in on a group of middle-aged children of the elderly, and you’ll hear that even the most casual mention of aging parents is likely to open up a Pandora’s Box of anxieties. These are stories told with tears, with exasperation, and sometimes, when they can take a step back, with laughter. Not funny ha-ha, but more like the hysterical laughter we all experience at those moments when we’re forced to come to grips with the absurdity of life and our own helplessness."
Bob O'Toole is President of Informed Eldercare Decisions, LLC, a private company that provides elder services providers with tools to provide their services to employers, community banks and faith based organizations.