Health beat: A helping hand for men who give care

  • Article by: WARREN WOLFE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 22, 2012 - 7:24 PM

In Minnesota, about 240,000 men are caregivers to spouses, parents, in-laws, children and friends -- helping them cope with acute or chronic illnesses.

And there are almost no guides to help them.

"Most of the books, and even research, are geared to women. And for a good reason. Women make up the biggest share of caregivers," said James Gambone of Orono, a gerontologist, author, consultant and teacher. "But the number of male caregivers is growing, and they usually don't seek out help as well as women do."

After 18 months of research, Gambone and one of his Capella University gerontology graduate students, Rhonda Travland of Florida -- both with care-giving experience -- have published "Who Says Men Don't Care? A Man's Guide to Balanced and Guilt-Free Caregiving."

The book is unusual, not just because it's one of the first aimed at men. It also differentiates between strengths needed for short-term care-giving (for a year or two until a loved one's recovery or death) and long-term care of someone with a chronic illness such as Alzheimer's disease.

It also offers advice on the strengths and weaknesses male caregivers likely will face by personality type. A "lone wolf," for instance, typical of many GI generation men, may be a devoted caregiver who keeps at it longer than others. But if he can't overcome his reluctance to seek help, he could become isolated, frustrated and sick himself.

A "manager" baby boomer, on the other hand, might easily put together and direct a care team of professionals and volunteers and prepare for future changes in care needs. But he may be perceived as emotionally aloof and less loyal.

Now Gambone is working on what he calls the next step -- helping disease and caregiver associations find better ways to connect with male caregivers.

Printed and Kindle versions of the book are available at Amazon.com or maleguideforcaregiving.com.

wolfe@startribune.com • 612-673-7253

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