There are more men than ever before caring for spouses with Alzheimer’s or dementia. In a role reversal, some men learn to do new things — cook meals, take care of cleaning the house — and find assistance in other areas. The National Alliance for Caregiving has been trying to be sure that family caregiver support stays in the Alzheimer’s plan.
John Becklenberg says his wife, Mary Ann, still cooks their dinner, although her favorite recipes are simplified to one or two steps.
She also hasn’t relinquished tidying up the kitchen of their Dyer, Ind., home, but there’s more clattering of pots and pans than ever before.
She was diagnosed six years ago with Alzheimer’s disease, a brain-wasting illness that eventually robs people of their memories and personalities, and interferes with the simplest of tasks. John says his wife is in the early stages. Rather than taking charge, he and Mary Ann, both 68 and sweethearts for 42 years, discuss what she can do and how he can help.
Every morning, they have “coffee and calendar” time, when he “reviews” with her what their day will involve. More recently, he has had to go over the daily schedule several times a day. Her “you never told me that” is followed with his “let’s review,” he says — but it’s rather easy “when she’s so pretty,” he says.
Women are still more likely to be caregivers, but the number of men caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia has soared from 19% to 40% in the past 15 years, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Among people over age 65 with the disease, about two-thirds are women (3.4 million), one-third men (1.8 million).
John Becklenberg says it’s “sad” and “lonely on some levels” to be the caregiver — he prefers to call himself a companion. “Males try to fix stuff,” he says. “We get out in front of ourselves a little bit too much. But by doing this instead, I ease her anxiety. I think it’s helped her in the long run. It’s also helped us both keep our integrity, and that’s important in a relationship.”
Alzheimer’s disease is fatal. The government announced a plan in May to find a cure by 2025 and to find ways to support caregivers. Alzheimer’s caregivers frequently report experiencing high levels of stress compared with those helping loved ones with other chronic diseases.
“One of the problems with Alzheimer’s is it can go on for such a long time,” says Beth Kallmyer, spokeswoman for the Alzheimer’s Association. “While everyone deals with it in their own way, male caregivers can sometimes find it harder to ask for help than women.”
At The Alzheimer’s Care Resource Center, we offer support groups and programs designed for the men in caregiver roles, call today for more information! 1-855-476-7600 or check us out here on the web!