Beyond the Misconceptions: Male Home Caregivers Making a Difference

male home caregivers home healthCaregiving, be it as a family caregiver or professional home caregiver, has traditionally been considered a female role.  As recently as 2009, only about 34% of the 65 million family caregivers in the U.S. were male (according to a National Caregiving Alliance/AARP study). A 2012 Pew study indicates that number is up to more than 45%. A study from the Alzheimer’s Association reports that between 1996 and 2011, the percentage of men among adults caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia almost doubled, to 40% from 19%. These changes may be attributed to changing roles and viewpoints, greater equality and simple demand and demographics.  Some authors also cite changes in the economy and gender roles at work for impacts on these roles. There have been a number of articles about these demographic changes and there is even a new male-focused online caregiver portal.

Similarly in the professional realm, nursing was once considered a female occupation, but that has begun to change.  Home health aide jobs, companion work and at home caregiving remain female-dominated (in a 2007 CDC survey of home health aides, 95% were female and recent numbers from the Department of Labor indicate that the field is still about 90% women). However, more men are seeking home health careers and becoming certified nursing assistants, home health aides or companions.  With projected employment growth of 50% (from 2008-2018), the field will, by necessity and opportunity if nothing else, see a greater mix of workers.  

Unfortunately, males still face some challenges and stereotypes when working as caregivers. One online discussion board revealed some men in the home health field complaining of the difficulty of getting steady work and a full schedule.  As one male home health aide noted, he gets asked back and complimented by clients when he goes out on a case, but very often clients request a female only when they first seek services.  Therefore, it can be tough for him to have enough work when cases turn over (as they often do in home health as clients die or move to higher levels of care). Stereotypes and preferences are much harder to deal with in a home care setting versus institutional work (i.e. a hospital or nursing home). 

If you are seeking caregiving services, we suggest you stay open about your preferences such as gender. If you (or your loved one) has such a preference or concern, consider interviewing/meeting prospective caregivers.  We find, much like the gentleman in the forum above, that our male caregivers get very high rankings from clients in terms of quality. Consider your positive experiences with male doctors, nurses or care attendants in hospitals. These caregivers are trained professionals, attuned to helping you maintain your dignity and comfort. At EasyLiving, we suggest you meet the caregivers that we feel are the best match for your needs and then you can better determine how you feel about working with a specific individual.

Male caregivers may also bring a number of strengths to their role. A 2012 study conducted by Bowling Green University showed that men dealt with the stress inherent in caregiving better than women.  The study found that “men seem better at dealing with caregiver stress because they take a ‘block and tackle’ approach to tasks”.  The researcher also found that male caregivers tended to be more assertive in advocating for their loved ones with authority figures like doctors. However, when male caregivers struggled, they were more reluctant to seek help and support. Some male-focused support groups (and the online community we mentioned) have arisen to offer men an approach that may be more tailored to the ways they approach caregiving. Some group leaders and participants have noted that men tend to use humor as a coping mechanism.

In professional caregiving the sense of advocacy and problem solving may lend a special approach to the care men provide. We have some excellent male caregivers working with clients who have dementia and they have been very successful with their patient and calm approach. They do not become easily exasperated and they take a pragmatic approach to dealing with various behavior issues that arise. They are adept at finding new ways to redirect or communicate with clients.

Like any company should, we hire based on qualifications, not gender, race, ethnicity, religious affiliation or other external characteristics. Beyond that, however, EasyLiving practices a focused hiring process to ensure we hire the most qualified, excellent caregivers. In addition to the usual screening and background check process, EasyLiving requires home health aides to score a 90% or above on their skills test (A students only!) and uses a culture fit assessment to ensure our team members’ fit with our goals and mission. In this way, we have built a strong, diverse team of caregivers who bring many special qualities to the work they do.

For example, we have a team of male caregivers working with one of our long-time clients. The team has been consistent for this gentleman over several years. The family has shared so much great feedback about the caregiving team. The caregivers have kept the home in pristine shape. For those who might hold the stereotype that men are not good at housekeeping, this team defies that stereotype and probably maintains the neatest house we have ever seen. You can read some more compliments from this particular family in our profile of Wes Karatnik, this month’s Inspirational Home Caregiver.

In the situation above, the team is working with a gentleman and he especially appreciates the camaraderie with other men. However, our male caregivers have been equally successful working with female clients. We recently heard from a client’s care manager who had excellent feedback on the caregiver working with her client. She commented on how intuitive he is and how he takes initiative to notice things and handle unspoken needs. For example, when taking the client out for lunch recently, he assisted with preparing the food so it would be easier for her. He knows she has trouble sometimes, so he helped to make the situation more comfortable for her automatically.

If you are a man considering a career in caregiving, we encourage you to continue on with your goals. A home care career is an excellent way to make a difference in others’ lives. Check out EasyLiving’s Home Caregiver Career page for jobs in Pinellas County.

If your family is seeking home care, we encourage you to be open to working with the best caregivers. Eliminating possibilities based on external characteristics may take away the opportunity for you to work with some amazing individuals. Since caregiving (particularly in the home setting) is so personal, factors like personality, skills and communication are the real keys to a successful match. For top quality caregivers in Pinellas County, give EasyLiving a call at 727-448-0900.