Caring for an ailing parent is emotionally and physically draining, Jim Togstad learned through hard experience.
“It takes a real taxing emotional toll on you,” said Togstad, who lives in Mound. “You want to do so much, but you can really put a lot of stress on you.”
Togstad’s mother was diagnosed with lung cancer several years ago, and died last September in her Edina home. While his sister provided most of the personal, day-to-day care their mother needed toward the end — dressing, bathing and so on — Togstad played his part, too. He located, interviewed and arranged for professional caregivers to fill in when he and his siblings weren’t available.
“We all have lives and jobs and families, so although we’d have liked to be there all the time, it’s impossible to do,” said Togstad, a phlebotomist for the American Red Cross.
Nearly 40 percent of American adults are caring for someone with a significant health issue, up from 30 percent in 2010, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center. Traditionally women — daughters and even daughters-in-law — have performed most of the caregiving work for aging or ailing loved ones.
But as the population ages, increasing the need for caregiving, and more women are working outside the home, limiting their availability, more men are getting involved. Now 37 percent of caregivers are men, Pew reports.
In response to these changing demographics, the home-care company Homewatch CareGivers last year launched the Male Caregiver Community (www.malecaregivercommunity.com) to provide information and support.
“This is a really interesting, big-picture trend,” said Jennifer Tucker, vice president for the Denver-based Homewatch CareGivers, which has three Twin Cities offices. The website’s goal is “to break down stereotypical caregiving perceptions, and to provide male caregivers with the tools they need to succeed.”
Men often take different roles in caregiving than their female counterparts. Many, like Togstad, focus on researching services and lining up professional help as opposed to providing hands-on care.
“One of the things we know about men is that they will go to the Internet more as a caregiving resource, but they are less likely to get caregiver training,” Tucker said. “If they’re less willing to seek it out, let’s make sure that they have a male caregiver community where they can post, read articles, get referrals and have resources.”
Male Caregiver Community offers a list of resources (the Alzheimer’s Association, the American Cancer Society, the Administration on Aging, etc.) and articles on caregiving topics (“7 Emotional and Physical Well-Being Tips for Male Caregivers,” “Why Is Dad So Stubborn?”).
An online forum lets members share their thoughts on care options, health conditions, financial and legal issues and self-care for the caregivers themselves. Discussions under headings such as “Siblings are in denial about my mom getting worse,” “Balancing my job and caregiving” and “Truck driver who wants to take care of wife but is always on the road” hint at some of the many challenges that can crop up when caring for an ailing parent or relative.
“Generally, there are still plenty of struggles,” Tucker said. And increasingly, men are helping shoulder those responsibilities. “Men are just as devoted to their loved ones as women are. Societally, they haven’t really had a venue to own that. We want to be part of the caregiving mix.”