Joe and Anita Fabiano were looking forward to retirement and many more years of happily wedded life, when Anita was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008. As Anita’s AD progressed, she had increasing diffi culty remembering everyday tasks, and was often getting lost. Unemployed at the time and faced with a demanding schedule of doctors’ appointments, Joe decided not to continue in his search for a new job and instead went into early retirement to become a full-time caregiver for Anita.
With more than 60% of caregivers being women, Alzheimer’s is often mentioned as a women’s disease. But male caregivers exist and they are doggedly taking care of their loved ones, often silently and without help. More often than not, men who find themselves called to nurture and care for spouses with dementia have less support, are less likely to ask for help, and are less likely to have the kind of socialization that nurturers need. These men have not only taken up the tasks of caregiver, but much to their dismay, have also been faced with adding the traditional women’s roles of cooking, cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping. Joe is one of these many male caregivers coming to terms with his new role.
Soon after Anita’s diagnosis, Joe’s daughter recommended he reach out to the Alzheimer’s Association. He joined a support group of fellow caregivers, including another man. Joe touched on the differences he sees as a male caregiver in comparison to his female counterparts. “I can bond with the men more than I can with the wives because women, I feel, are more in tune to ‘taking care of others.’ It’s an instinct women have and it’s all new to men. All of a sudden you’re the one keeping house and getting the clothes ready.” Were the roles reversed, Joe thinks Anita would probably be more sensitive. “She would be more in tune to the feelings. Anita could write a book on feelings and I can’t get past the first paragraph.”
Joe has since left the support group as he is not ready to hear about what others are going through who are caring for people in the later stages of the disease. “It’s very hard to accept seeing someone you’re in love with having these problems,” Joe remarked. Joe and Anita have recently joined a clinical trial after learning about it at the Chapter, and are working hard to stay busy and enjoy themselves in this difficult time. “Anita and I both love to sing, so we do that with a group and it’s a wonderful thing.”
Hillary Caceres and Heather Truettner