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Sons in the Workplace: The Role of Male Caregivers

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"Ted" - one of three adult sons - had a stressful career as a newspaper copy editor with limited time to help care for his elderly mother, who lived three hours from his home. “The demands were so great and, quite honestly, my job didn’t allow for me to take off time. Care mostly fell to my sister-in-law, who lived in the same community."

For a variety of reasons, including his mother’s increasing care needs, Ted exchanged his newspaper career for a contract writing business when he was in his 50s. While the job change allowed him to spend more time with his mother, who eventually moved to a skilled nursing community, his duties didn’t change much.

He continued to do what he’d done before, helping to arrange care services for his mom and monitor her care, along with supporting another brother who was handling the finances. Until their mother was placed in skilled nursing, Ted’s sister-in-law primarily provided the hands-on care.

Ted’s story is not unusual, according to Ellen Galinsky, senior research advisor for SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management).

"According to our research, working men are just as likely as employed women to provide care for an elderly parent. But they’re doing different things such as managing finances, managing medications and arranging services."

Consider these statistics, from The Eldercare Study: Everyday Realities and Wishes for Change, with data from the 2008 National Study of the Changing Workforce*:

  • On average, women spend 9.1 hours a week providing care (or an average of 6.4 hours providing in-person care and an average 2.7 hours providing indirect care).
  • Men spend an average total of 5.7 hours as caregivers (or an average 3.4 hours providing in-person care and an average 2.2 hours providing indirect care).
  • In 2008, men who were caregivers experienced more work-family conflict than did women who were caregivers. That year, 49 percent of men experienced “some" or “a lot" of conflict compared with 42 percent of women. It is unclear why men experienced more conflict, but perhaps the role of caregiving is newer to them than it is to women and thus the demands are experienced more intensely, the report noted.

If you are a son or male spouse in the workforce caring for a senior loved one, be sure to check out what services your employer may offer to help you manage the stress of your dual roles as a family caregiver and employee.

Last revised: May 31, 2017

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