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My husband and I have established roles in our daily lives. I am the shopper, the cook, and the social secretary. My husband is the accountant, the contract reader, and the sprinkler repair man. Our roles have been established and reinforced over 33 years of marriage.

I can’t imagine my husband taking over my roles (we would clearly starve) and I can’t imagine taking over his, but that is exactly what my friend Marty has done for his wife Debbie.

Debbie first showed signs of cognitive changes and decline five years ago. After that first year. Debbie had testing and brain scans done, which caused them to then seek out a neurologist. Then the diagnosis came, Alzheimer’s disease.

It was no surprise really, as Debbie’s mother and three older sisters also had Alzheimer's.

Debbie’s memory loss and inability to do many tasks of daily living were a challenge for Marty, and one that he took to heart.

I remember him telling me how he asked Debbie’s hairstylist to show him how to blow dry and style Debbie’s hair. It touched my heart that Marty would see this as a necessary chore. I come from a long line of females who are obsessed with perfectly styled hair.

Marty has taken on many other new roles in his daily life resulting from the advancement of Debbie’s disease - food shopper, cook, laundry manager, scheduler, pharmacist, social planner, physician’s assistant, athletic director, clothing stylist and hygiene provider.

He does this with a level of care and attention to detail that makes me think he must have been great in his career addressing his client’s needs.

In 2022, about 20% of U.S. adults, or nearly 50 million Americans, were family caregivers. At least 40% of them are men, the fastest growing category of caregivers in the U.S.

Family caregivers are often called “the cornerstone of our society” because they tend to the medical, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of their loved ones. They play a very hands-on, valuable role.

While caregivers are a crucial component in the life of those with cognitive and physical challenges, 40% of caregivers consider their situation emotionally stressful. Besides handling new responsibilities they've never had before, they deal with a level of unpredictability. A bad day may follow a very good one.

In unpredictable environments, both anxiety and stress tend to rise, which may lead to increased depression and physical ailments.

Family caregivers cope with these challenges in different ways. Marty chose two of the more positive ways of coping.

First, he enrolled Debbie in Senior Concerns Adult Day program. In addition to compassionate care for Debbie, it provided her a place to be with friends and engage in activities like dancing, that bring her joy.  

On the days Debbie attends the program, Marty has space to complete his responsibilities and has some personal time to recharge. The day program team also acts as a trusted advisor to Marty’s as new situations arise. 

Marty also joined a caregiver support group. At first, he was unsure the group would be right for him; however, he soon learned it provided him with a comfortable space to share his story and learn more about the journey that lies ahead. Marty says he also feels a sense of accomplishment when his experiences become useful for others.

While Debbie and Marty’s journey has many challenges, Marty says his experiences have made him stronger, and a better advocate for vulnerable individuals. It has heightened his natural empathy for the problems other people face.

Marty says “Caregiving has helped me to understand that I must look inside myself for the fortitude to go the distance. It has also taught me when to ask for help, because that is a very important part of the process.”

If you are a family caregiver caring for an aging loved one, Senior Concerns invites you to Caregiver Recognition Day. This free annual event on May 7, 2024, will be held from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm and is meant to honor and celebrate family caregivers. It will be held at Los Robles Greens, 299 Moorpark Road, in Thousand Oaks. Reservations are required.

To register go to https://www.seniorconcerns.org/caregiver-recognition-day/.

Be kind to yourself in your caregiving journey and be celebrated. You, just like Marty, are our community heroes.

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Categories: Elder CareNumber of views: 34

Tags: male caregivers

Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher

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