We’d been driving around—lost—for what seemed like an eternity. My husband wouldn’t ask for directions. “Why not?” I pleaded. He replied, “I don’t need help. We’ll be fine.” “Typical man,” I thought. I finally pulled out my cell phone; mapped our destination; and within minutes, we were back on track.I tell you this story not to embarrass my husband, but to make an important parallel with being a caregiver, especially if you’re a man who’s reluctant to ask for assistance. The journey for every Alzheimer’s caregiver is hard. The road is filled with unexpected turns, bumps, detours and dead-ends. It’s easy to lose your way. Anger, confusion and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness are common. It doesn’t have to be that way. Help is a phone call away.
While it’s true that most caregivers we serve are women, increasingly, we are hearing from more and more men. Whether they are older men taking care of their wives, or sons taking care of their dads, the higher levels of anxiety, frustration and embarrassment they experience is striking — particularly among men in their 70’s and 80’s.
By and large, men of this generation were the breadwinners. Their wives — even if they worked — took care of the household chores like cooking, cleaning, laundry, and shopping. Now, faced with the frightening reality that their life partners have dementia, these men are responsible not only for medical and care decisions, but for running the household as well, including chores they’ve probably never done before. Still, their instinct is to go it alone. And suddenly, these strong, independent, proud men are completely at sea.
In my almost eight years as President and CEO, the Chapter has seen tremendous growth in the number of men who ask for assistance. But we know this increase pales in comparison to the tens of thousands of husbands, sons and other men who need our help.
As readers of this column, you can help! If you know a male caregiver who’s struggling, please tell him about our services and let him know it’s okay to share his problems. Our services are free and many are off ered in neighborhoods throughout the City.
To all the male caregivers: Please take the first step. Call our 24-hour Helpline anytime day or night
1-800-272-3900. Find a support group. They are comfortable, safe places where you’ll be with people who’ve been in your shoes. You won’t be the only guy in the group who’s ruined your wife’s favorite blouse because you didn’t separate the colors from the whites.
You won’t be the first to admit he’s clueless about operating the dishwasher. Nor will you be alone in wondering, “How will I ever get through this?”
I’m reminded of the Beatles’ song, “Help” … When I was younger, so much younger than today, I never needed anybody’s help in any way. But now these days are gone, I’m not so selfassured …”
I promise, if you open the doors to the NYC Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, we will help you “get your feet back on the ground.” And we will be with you every step of this journey.
— Lou-Ellen Barkan
President & CEO