Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Caregiving Metaphysics Gender

Over the decades I’ve learned the hard way that being a guy works against you but can be overcome.

Besides the oodles of email, I’ve also coached or counseled new caregivers through our local NMSS chapters.

Overwhelmingly it is the male caregivers who get injured physically and or emotionally and begin to doubt themselves or raise concerns in the person who needs them.

Our American male culture is based on the cowboy mythology.If there is a person in need the hero rides in guns blazing with absolutely no thought of themselves or collateral damage.

I’ve been lucky so far with only one hernia surgery. In the early years for a family outing I would assist Patti into the car, put our daughter into her car seat, then dead lift the scooter into the back. Being a ‘manly-man’ I was not about to disassemble or use a lift to get Patti’s scooter in and out of our vehicle. … Enlightenment followed surgery.

YOU MUST TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF FIRST OR YOU ARE OF NO USE TO ANYONE ELSE. Instead of counting to 10 I repeat that to myself constantly before beginning a caregiver action.

Over the years and Patti’s continuing progression I’ve learned to check the cowboy in me and learned for example to “safely break falls” rather than try to overpower and stop a fall. After all, able bodied couples don’t think twice about tumbling to the ground for fun.

Resist the male urge to overpower problems. Look to creativity and a wider perspective.

Learn to develop and trust intuition. That’s tough for guys but critical for longevity in caregiving.

Homemaking skills can be weak to non-existent in many males. You will loose traditional male bonding time when you begin to discuss laundry detergent instead of sports. Don’t worry you’ll find a way to have Tide and Cheer compete. … A vacuum cleaner IS a power tool! … In the kitchen, remember the world’s great “chefs” are men.

Above all caregiver cowboys do not charge in with those proverbial guns blazing, you’ll unnerve the person you are caring for and most likely hit yourself with a ricochet. Then who is left caring for whom?

… Or don’t ask for directions, believe me I understand. You too can learn the hard way – enlightenment follows surgery.



  1. excellently written, Patrick. I'm sure you have mentored quite a few caregivers of both genders; thank you for your willingess to continue to share your journey with us and all who probably come to you with assistance.

  2. I think I liked this entry most out of your entries on caregivers.
    I don't know why--I just liked it!

  3. i love this one:) its so true for male and female alike:)


  4. All very true, Patrick!!  I'm sure men find caregiving totally overwhelming in many ways.  But, caregiving for either gender can be difficult and to take care of yourself, both physically and mentally is the hardest lesson  to learn.  Keep up the good work!!

  5. It just hit me!!  Have you seen the commercial for a cleaner (brand/type escapes me at the moment) where there are  three rough and manly men sitting around watching sports on tv. One guy returns from restroom and mentions how 'sparkling' it is and the owner says yeaah and tells wwhy.... then the third guy sits his glass on the table and the owner barks, 'Hey! Use a coaster!'  LOL  I'll always think of you now when I see it!!  LOL

  6. You continue to bring up new situations that occur between caregiver and the one needing the care... things I hadn't thought. The one time it occurred to me was when I had to lift a student from her wheelchair and transfer her to another seated position. She was nearly dead weight. It hurt my back, and the next few days I had to wear a back support belt. You had to lift a grown woman from a wheelchair to the car, then lift the power chair into your car, numerous times ... so you, more than anyone, know the consequences of trying to do it alone. You are wiser and stronger as a result, and now you teach those who are walking into caregiving for the first time. The baby boomers (my generation) are having to take care of their parents now, and their ailing spouses... it's going to increase for another ten or twenty years, I suspect. We need to be smarter about it... like you said, take care of yourself first or you are of no use to anyone else. This series belongs in a health magazine. bea

  7. Thank you so much for visiting my journal! I love your attitude! :o) Keep up the good work with your writings! :o)

  8. I spent 15 years dead lifting quads before they were too afraid of hoyer lifts...as you said enlightenment follows surgery. In my case back surgery. Bam

  9. ...my daughter is continually warning me to take care of myself, my husband weighs almost 300 pounds and I am five foot two!  I had to really work to get him a power chair because I could not always push him up ramps,etc.  The powers we deal with sometimes don't understand! <smiles.>


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