There was a recent article in USA Today featuring a male caregiver that has been getting a lot of press lately, and as a male caregiver I wanted to chime in and give you my thoughts on the article.
The article relays the story of Ed Mitchell, who is caring for his wife, Frankie, who has early onset Alzheimer’s.
As I read the article, I was struck by several different lessons caregivers could learn from Ed, all of which are important for a caregiver to function and survive the rigors of caregiving…whether the caregiver is a man or a woman.
Ed Has Built a Support Mechanism
The article talks about how Ed sent out an early morning text to 8 people seeking assistance for activities that are coming up during the week.
And bless their hearts the responses came in quickly. Several people were able to help in varying degrees with activities or chores that needed to be done.
Later on in the article it talks about how male caregivers are more willing to admit that they can’t handle it all than female caregivers. This is actually a good trait to have in caregiving, as it certainly has helped Ed to delegate authority so that he can care for his wife (and his aging father).
Ed Has A Routine
By establishing a routine, Ed has managed to simplify his life. And this will be very important the Frankie’s Alzheimer’s develops with time. AD sufferers can be easily confused and Ed’s ability to maintain a routine will help him help Frankie.
As an example, Ed wakes up every day at the same time (6am) and he serves the same breakfast every day (yogurt and granola). And while the article didn’t go into detail I am sure that Ed sought out every way possible for him to simplify his life as well.
Ed Plans Ahead
In several instances the article talked about how Ed planned things in advance.
First, as the text messages were coming in (I discussed this earlier) he made sure to slot the available help into his phone at the appointed times.
Next, he utilized a strategy that every books on success and personal achievement talks about…don’t begin the day until it is finished on paper.
And that means that the night before, after Frankie and his parents have gone to bed, Ed sits down and makes sure that everything is planned for the next day. Whatever it is…laundry, grocery shopping, music therapy…it all has its appointed place in his schedule.
Ed Has Home Health Care
Ed does have a home health care aid come in to assist him…which provides at least a little bit of well needed respite care.
Ed Goes To A Support Group
Actually, Ed founded the support group! It is specifically for male caregivers and responds to the different emotional support needs that men face.
As I stated above, there are different ways that male caregivers deal with situations. Men typically always try to show the sharp stoic face, completely emotionless to be strong for those around them.
But in this support group Ed and the other participants can let their hair down a bit and allow their emotions and frustrations to be presented to their peers in such a way that they can get the support they need.
And people like Ed, and myself, are part of a growing caregiver population. While women still make up the majority of caregivers, male caregivers now make up almost 40% of the caregiving population. And we would all be smart to learn a little bit from Ed.