Men & Women Have Different Strengths When It’s About Caregiving

Receiving a diagnosis of a serious disease is devastating not only to the patient, but to loved ones as well. Not only is it challenging to deal with the emotional aspects of watching someone you care about deal with the challenges that come with the diagnosis, there are also the challenges associated with providing care for that person. From dispensing medication and providing physical help with daily activities to managing day-to-day household chores as well as the logistical and financial challenges that come with the illness and outside obligations, such as work or children, being a caregiver is more than a full-time job.

Because the value of family caregivers cannot be underestimated, many support organizations and even major medical associations, such as the American Cancer Society, have launched research projects in an attempt to improve support and guidance for those who care for ill or disabled loved ones. Among the many studies over the past decade, one theme has emerged: Men and women approach caregiving differently, and each gender has its own strengths. By understanding these strengths, everyone can become more effective in their roles and better meet their loved ones’ needs.

It’s no surprise to anyone who has ever interacted with the opposite sex that men and women communicate differently. Decades of research has found that in general, women tend to be more emotional communicators, focusing on the feelings associated with any situation, while men tend to be more action-oriented communicators. Men generally aren’t interested in hashing out a given situation from every angle to determine why something is happening or how they feel about it — they would rather “fix” the problem and move on.

In a caregiving situation, these communication differences often play out in how the caregiver relates to the patient, and how they handle their own emotions. A female caregiver might be more concerned with her loved  one’s emotional state and be more in tune to his or her moods and willing to talk about the feelings that the disease or treatment is creating. A male caregiver, on the other hand, may be more focused on getting the best treatment possible and spend hours researching radiation treatment for pancreatic cancer instead of talking about feelings. While each style has its advantages, it’s important for caregivers to understand that patients need both emotional support and an advocate, and sometimes they just want to cry or vent without  actually taking action — or vice versa.

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, women not only talk about emotions more than men do, they are also more willing to talk about caregiving in general. The FCA notes that women are twice as likely as men to talk with someone else about the burdens of caregiving, whereas men rarely talk to others about their caregiving role in any forum.

However, somewhat counterintuitively, men are more likely to ask for help with caregiving than women are. The tasks associated with caregiving, including actual hands-on care of the patient as well as other responsibilities, take up a lot of time. Men are less likely than women to leave their jobs to become full-time caregivers and therefore rely more heavily on outside assistance such as housekeepers or visiting nurses to manage all of the responsibilities.

Some experts note that this willingness to ask for help is often a good thing, as women can take on the additional responsibilities of caregiving at a detriment to themselves. In fact, between both sexes, caregiving can have a negative impact on relationships, finances, personal activities and careers, but men’s willingness to ask for help lessens the severity of the impact in some cases.

Personal Health
Another common problem among caregivers of both sexes is neglect of personal health. The demands of caregiving often mean neglecting one’s own doctor’s appointments, not exercising or eating right or working through illness. Women tend to do slightly better in this regard, as they tend to be more concerned with health in general, but both sexes do tend to see a decline in personal health when they take on a caregiving role.

Because caregiving places such significant physical, emotional and financial demands on any caregiver, it’s important to provide them with support. There is a growing awareness of the need to provide specialized support to male caregivers, who are still among the minority despite their growing numbers. In short, whether you are male or female, if you are caring for someone else, the best thing you can do is ask for help, get the support you need and avoid doing everything yourself. Do that, and everyone’s needs will be met.


*Our content is not intended to provide medical advice or diagnosis of individual problems or circumstances, nor should it be implied that we are a substitute for professional medical advice. Users / readers are always advised to consult their Healthcare Professional prior to starting any new remedy, therapy or treatment. Your Wellness Group accepts no liability in the event you, a user of n-gage and a reader of this article, suffers a loss as a result of reliance upon or inappropriate application of the information.

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