Cancer Issues – Men as Caregivers

 

Both men and women are called upon to be care givers when loved ones are diagnosed with cancer, and both suffer the same psychological and emotional distress. Both need the embrace of a caring support network. But do both react similarly in similar situations?

When we envision the caregiver of a seriously ill family member we usually conjure up the image of a woman. This is not sexist bias. Both men and women think the same way in this regard. It’s a statistical reality. More women than men are found in the role of caregivers. Why?

In most marriages, the husband is older than his wife. Couple this statistic with the fact that women, on average, live longer than men. It is also statistically true that a man’s working environment is often more physically demanding and inherently dangerous that of women, even when working outside the home. This statistics describe a situation where the probability of accident and the normal ravages of age inflict the husband first, leaving his wife in the role of caretaker. Regarding cancer specifically, statistics infer that men are more likely than women to pursue lifestyle behaviors, such as smoking, misuse of alcohol, and poor diet that place them at greater risk of getting cancer, but statistics is a tricky discipline.

Even though our tendency to envision women as caregivers is supported by statistics that place male caretakers in the minority, it is in reality a sizable minority. Recorded incidences of cancer in women may be slightly lower internationally than that recorded in men, but the numbers are not that far apart. Actual numbers indicate that there a sizeable number of men that find themselves in the role of carer for a spouse or loved one fighting cancer. To what degree they are involved, however, is another matter.

Although employment demographics are now rapidly changing to reflect more equal opportunities for men and women in professional and higher paid employment, men have traditionally provided a larger part of family income. For either man or woman, where income or financial resources are sufficient, the caregiver may continue with a job or career and arrange for third parties to provide the day-to-day care necessary for the loved one. (Interesting to note is that these third parties, whether family members or hired professional caregivers are most often women.)

Others, less fortunate, may need to juggle many balls trying to provide both income and care. In all cases, however, the caregiver will benefit from the emotional support of a network of friends or from outside support groups. The question is, “Is a man as likely as a woman to seek out or accept outside guidance and emotional support as a woman would?”

According to a report from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, funded by the United States National Institute of Health, men, whether they have cancer or are the care giver, are less likely than women to join a live support group. Those that do, both men and women, attend for about one year before leaving the group. Both men and women attend for the same reason: to seek information about the disease, and to compare progress with others.

A recent trend is discussed in a paper by Tamar Ginossar, called Exploring Participation in Cancer-Related Virtual Communities, presented at the 2008 annual meeting of the International Communication Association in New York. Increasing numbers of men and women are using technology and turning to virtual internet-based support groups for emotional and informational support regarding cancer. It is interesting to note that while both sexes exchanged emails to share information about their respective types of cancer, men were less likely to post messages of encouragement and support than women. One can infer from this that men are drawn to virtual support groups to share important information and experience while emotionally isolating themselves from other group members.

Custom, tradition, culture; all have contributed to the go?it?alone, stiff?upper­?lip comportment of many men when facing emotionally difficult challenges, including the impact of caring for a loved one with cancer. Hopefully, as our culture moves more and more toward equality of the sexes in personal, professional, and social relationships, men will find it easier to recognize and accept the intimacy and help that can be received from support groups, as they face the tribulations of caring for a loved one with cancer.

            Caring for a loved one with cancer can be physically and psychologically exhausting. Sharing concerns and frustrations with others in an understanding support group of similar cancer hosts and caregivers can help markedly. Women seem to gravitate naturally to this type of support; men are more reluctant. It is important for all caregivers, men and women, to seek out and accept the help of a support network.

4 Responses to Cancer Issues – Men as Caregivers

  1. Hotshot t says:

    I am 6 months pregnant and my hormones and emotions are on high alert. My boyfriend and i are having issuses within our rrelationship but we are trying to work things out. We both have individual problems we need to deal with and i am going forward and taking some action trying to deal with mine. One issue that i am kind of looking into is the past relationships i had with the men in my life. I am trying to figure out if maybe that is contributing to the way i feel about my boyfriend now. The first man i ever knew in my life was one of my older brothers. He was one of 3 brothers i have. He was everyones favorite and as i said before the first man i knew. He took on tghe role as my protecter, provider, caregiver, he made me feel pretty, he was my teacher, and doctor. He was basically like my dad. I remember him and i smile. The reason why i love shirley temple is because of him. I remember getting up everyday and he putting on shirley temple for me. All that changed when i was 3 years old. He passed away thats the first time i seen death. I even remember seeing him in his coffon and someone lifting me up to see him. After he died things change. My other 2 older brothers were in my life but were moreso absent because of corse they had their lives. When i did see them i was basically belittled. I was told i was pretty but they always picked at how i could change this and that. I was smart but i wasnt smart enough. It seemed as if i just wasnt good enough. This went on from when i was five years old even up til now. I have clashed with them even letting them know how they have hurt me. They were not the best male figures. I think the reaon why i resent my brother who is younger of the two is beause when i was about 4 years old my older nephew basically made me do sexual things and my borther walked in becuase he was suppose to watch us and he basically said yall dont be doing that no more. I lived with my nephew for 10 years after that. My other brother likes to manipulate people with words and he has been the biggest reason why i strive to be something. Throughout the years my relationships havent been successful. All the guys i have dated knew i was a virgin and said they would respect that but in the end they just wanted sex. I stayed a virgin til i was 21 years old. I gave my virginity to my now boyfriend/baby daddy. When we was starting our realtionship my father had cancer. My father and i never really had a relationship until i was 16 years old and we really started to bond as father and daughter. He took the role of a great father for 5 years and made me fell like my older brother did when i was younger. But my father passed as me and my boyfriend was trying to get our relationship on track and i felt like after my father died my boyfriend wasnt there. His death took a tole on me and my boyfriend would stray away from me when i needed him. He has issues major issues that he surpresses and thens displaces all his anger on me. I know he loves me but he sometimes treats me like my brothers. It makes me feel like shit and when we argue i tend to walk away solely because this is stressing me out arguing with him and also he just doesnt listen to me. Are my past relationship with my brothers and past relationships making me wanna run from him. He doesnt make me feel secure, loved, nor protected.SORRY SO LONG

  2. tjpimpin says:

    Time was feminism was a really radical movement which was examining everything from the nature of work and society, the role of women and men in child rearing, campaigning for equal pay, criminalising domestic violence and for the first time making rape within marriage a crime.

    Huge changes have been achieved and yet now, I’m not sure I know what feminists stand for at all. The desire to challenge the framework of society seems to have been replaced by nothing more radical than wanting to be on a level legal and economic playing field with men, in the same paternalistically defined structures that women were railing so hard against only 20 years ago.

    Have women perhaps forgotten the struggles of the past and accepted the freedoms of the present without question. Are they just happy with how things are, and content with signing a few petitions to help their sisters overseas.

    Has feminism just lost its way?

  3. Kevin says:

    I am 6 months pregnant and my hormones and emotions are on high alert. My boyfriend and i are having issuses within our rrelationship but we are trying to work things out. We both have individual problems we need to deal with and i am going forward and taking some action trying to deal with mine. One issue that i am kind of looking into is the past relationships i had with the men in my life. I am trying to figure out if maybe that is contributing to the way i feel about my boyfriend now. The first man i ever knew in my life was one of my older brothers. He was one of 3 brothers i have. He was everyones favorite and as i said before the first man i knew. He took on tghe role as my protecter, provider, caregiver, he made me feel pretty, he was my teacher, and doctor. He was basically like my dad. I remember him and i smile. The reason why i love shirley temple is because of him. I remember getting up everyday and he putting on shirley temple for me. All that changed when i was 3 years old. He passed away thats the first time i seen death. I even remember seeing him in his coffon and someone lifting me up to see him. After he died things change. My other 2 older brothers were in my life but were moreso absent because of corse they had their lives. When i did see them i was basically belittled. I was told i was pretty but they always picked at how i could change this and that. I was smart but i wasnt smart enough. It seemed as if i just wasnt good enough. This went on from when i was five years old even up til now. I have clashed with them even letting them know how they have hurt me. They were not the best male figures. I think the reaon why i resent my brother who is younger of the two is beause when i was about 4 years old my older nephew basically made me do sexual things and my borther walked in becuase he was suppose to watch us and he basically said yall dont be doing that no more. I lived with my nephew for 10 years after that. My other brother likes to manipulate people with words and he has been the biggest reason why i strive to be something. Throughout the years my relationships havent been successful. All the guys i have dated knew i was a virgin and said they would respect that but in the end they just wanted sex. I stayed a virgin til i was 21 years old. I gave my virginity to my now boyfriend/baby daddy. When we was starting our realtionship my father had cancer. My father and i never really had a relationship until i was 16 years old and we really started to bond as father and daughter. He took the role of a great father for 5 years and made me fell like my older brother did when i was younger. But my father passed as me and my boyfriend was trying to get our relationship on track and i felt like after my father died my boyfriend wasnt there. His death took a tole on me and my boyfriend would stray away from me when i needed him. He has issues major issues that he surpresses and thens displaces all his anger on me. I know he loves me but he sometimes treats me like my brothers. It makes me feel like shit and when we argue i tend to walk away solely because this is stressing me out arguing with him and also he just doesnt listen to me. Are my past relationship with my brothers and past relationships making me wanna run from him. He doesnt make me feel secure, loved, nor protected.SORRY SO LONG

  4. RichT says:

    This is hard to explain without it being too long. I moved back home to live with my parents because my father has bone cancer is now on hospice care and I am his primary caregiver. My mother had a very serious mental breakdown a few years ago, and is finally starting to make progress, but she still is almost childlike and very insecure as she needs me to help her shower, dress, and other little every day things. My father is losing his ability to walk and is very loopy from his medication and my mother and I have to be by his side basically 24/7 to ensure he doesn’t fall. He can sometimes fall up to 5 times a day, and he is a very heavy man. It takes a lot out of me to just pick him up and I’ve hurt myself on several occasions because I’m only 110lbs.

    Anyways, this is not an easy job, I do the best I can, and hospice has been a pretty big help as well. The main issue here is my father’s nosy, controlling and rude sister. His sister seems sometimes to honestly care, but, as of late, she has just been very overbearing and downright rude. One example is that she went behind my back and got the number of one of the Hospice nurses, called her and asked her to make sure my father is being fed and that we have enough food at home! When I asked her what that was about, she simply said that it made her feel better that I made it clear that he is being fed and I go grocery shopping as often as I can. She claimed my dad complained about not being fed. That was about 6 months ago and he was joking. His family and friends are always dropping by to visit and bring food, so even though I buy food, our fridge and freezer are usually overflowing. For my aunt to go to one of my dad’s nurses to say that just makes it look very bad on me, but luckily anyone can tell he is well fed and cared for.

    The other day, however, has me livid and fed up with her. She said she was coming to visit and bring her mom (my dad’s mom). I told her we were good on food as I had cooked that night. She still brought food, which isn’t too bad, but what she told me before she left was beyond rude. She came into my room, as I was cleaning and doing laundry, and told me that our house needs a seriously good scrubbing as it is filthy, dusty, and reeks of dog. Then she said when I’m ready to finally clean the house properly to give her a call and she will come over and help but she expects everyone to do their part in cleaning….. Ummm…wtf?! I was so shocked and when I finally got my wits about me, she had already left before I could give her a piece of my mind.

    Yes, my dad has a dog who sheds a lot, but our house does not reek of dog; it’s the dog who reeks of dog when he comes back from running outside. Also, I vacuum every other day and dust every week. We live in the country in Louisiana so it gets dusty a lot, but I can tell you this house is NOT filthy. My mom uses the dining table (which we don’t use anymore) as her little office to pay bills etc, and my aunt always mentions cleaning that table and my mother always tells her “no”.

    Anyways, my boyfriend also helps me clean when he stays over, and when I told her what she said, he was also extremely peeved as he knows I am always running around the house cleaning and trying to “fall proof” the house for my dad. Oh, and my aunt also told my mother and me that we need to get rid of the carpet and replace it with hardwood floors instead. Now, if anyone with a bit of common sense would know, first, that costs $$$. Second, as my father cannot walk or stand without aid, where would we put him and if he fell on hardwood floor, he would be more at risk of breaking a bone or busting his head open. I am so fed up with this woman coming in here and saying these things and telling us how we need to do this or that, and going behind our back with the Hospice services. She apparently even added herself as a family contact without our consent. I have no idea what to do with this woman, other than to just tell her off. I have no idea what makes her think she has the right to even do this. Not to mention, once she realized how hard it was to care for my dad, she suddenly only visits once a week and only for a few hours. And she’s always on vacation, yet calls me and asks me if my dad’s written his Will yet, or what mom and I will do once he’s dead, etc. Any advice or anyone out there who has dealt with something like this too?
    And sorry for this being so long, it’s just there is so much going on and too many occasions of her making rude and insensitive comments. She’s called me while I was at the store, and even though I told her I was busy, she started up about my dad’s will and asked how I expected my mom to live and make money without my dad being there, and other very sensitive and upsetting questions that I felt were not considerate to be asking over the phone and especially when I kept telling her to please wait to discuss this when she came over and that this was hard for me to talk about.

    I should add that my dad is retired military. So he does get retirement and disability.
    Claire, I have been thinking about how she must be wanting some part of my dad’s will. My dad said he doesn’t want a will as he wants everything to go to my mother, then it will all eventually go to me. I have confronted her, and told her off, such as her going to the Hospice nurse about my dad being fed.

    I am calling Hospice tomorrow to remove her as a contact and to tell them that we do not want her to be calling and asking questions about dad. She can ask if she wants, but she is to not get any personal information about him. I’m also going to talk to the nurse who she’s talked to and tell her that she needs to be ignored and that we would really appreciate it if she did not contact her for anything.

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