Sunday, December 30, 2012

Guys as CareTakers

I am a family caregiver... there, I said it, but it’s like speaking a foreign language.  Of all the things I do well in life, I have no aptitude, training or experience in caregiving, and I certainly never aspired to it.  But here I am -- having left Boulder, Colorado for a small, rural town in the hills of Pennsylvania to be a primary family caregiver, living across the street from my mom, 82, and stepfather, 88.

What do I know about this caregiver role?  First of all, it’s dominated by women, who often have  strong, nurturing backgrounds and sensibilities.  Me?  I’m a single man uncomfortably thrust into a daily caring role for which I’m wholly unprepared, and “nurturant” isn’t exactly the word that comes to mind as one of my leading attributes...  how in the world can I take this role and make it my own?

To start with, “caregiving” may be what I’m doing, but the term “caregiver” doesn’t really work for me.  I’ll fulfill this role on a daily level and do many of the same things, but I already know my masculine orientation mandates (forgive the pun!) that I’ll approach this as a “CareTaker” – a loving son who protects and assists his family in whatever way he can.  In the coming days, months, and years I’ll need to figure out exactly what this means and somehow mesh it with my insanely busy career, my skills and abilities, and my need to be effective in caring for my loved ones.

Somehow I have to add this new role to my established self-definition. I’m many things: an MBA, business consultant, executive, a scientist by training, educator, watercolorist, musician, and still working toward my PhD. I’m also the Chief Operating Officer of Companion Arts, with responsibility for the business management of our  caregiving mission; however, actual caregiving was not part of my job description or my personal strategic plan, but – like many of you -- here I am, and now it’s time to roll up my sleeves and tackle this new challenge!

And I’m not alone.  A study by the Pew Research Center in July, 2012 found that the percentage of male family caregivers has risen to 45%.  We’re frequently an unseen, under-served community among caregivers; moreover, we’re a fast-growing trend.  We need to learn and provide care to our aging families while developing and honing a new CareTaking approach.

With this in mind I’m starting a new Companion Arts blog, Guys as CareTakers.  Each month I’ll identify an issue unique to male CareTakers  and will interact with experts, caregivers, CareTakers and blog followers about the issues. Everyone is welcome as we share issues, frustrations, solutions and celebrations.  Hang on, this should be a wild ride!

Join me in the Guys As CareTakers Blog... share your stories and insights!  Take heart, we’re a trend.
  -  Leland

PS  My blog is the first of a number of new, intriguing Companion Arts blogs coming to our website in the next few months – stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Family caregivers for the aging and disabled experience emotional and financial strain.  Studies show caregivers have higher levels of serious psychological distress and negative health behaviors, particularly for caregivers between the ages of 45 and 64.
  • The mental strains of caregiving adversely impact household chores and their social lives.
  • Middle-aged caregivers are more likely to binge drink, smoke and/or be obese.
  • Middle-aged caregivers lack support.  Many are single, divorced or widowed, most work, and many are low income.
  • Live-in caregivers spend an average of 36  hours weekly on caregiving, and most work full or part time.
  • Few caregivers are paid for their services, but many contribute their own funds while caregiving.
  • Respite services can reduce caregiver strains, but are underutilized. 
Recent cuts in funding programs for caregivers are predicted to worsen these mental and financial strains on caregivers.

More than ever, we need programs to support our caregivers! Additional information can be found at