The Over-Worked Woman

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stressed-womanWhen a family member becomes ill or experiences a precipitous decline in health, it is most often a woman in the family who leans in to provide care. To be sure, men  are increasingly taking on this role.  Researchers are looking to see if men experience similar challenges when they take on the responsibility of care. At this time, it appears that women continue to face more and unfairly balanced challenges and responsibilities, compared to their male counterparts.

Research conducted at the University of Missouri School of Medicine found that caregivers may be asked to take on numerous duties, including cooking and cleaning for their loved one along with bathing them. More than 280 individuals who had taken on the role of family caregiver were surveyed during this study to see the impact these duties have on men and women.

Women acting as a family caregiver for a loved one tend to report they obtain less support from their family when caring for the loved one. Their self-esteem often drops during this time, and they experience more negative consequences when it comes to their health. Karla Washington, Pd.D is the lead author of this study and a Department of Family and Community Medicine assistant professor. She hypothesizes this may be due to family members feeling less obligated to help women who take on this role.

Women typically take on care-giving duties in families starting at a young age, and continuing on through life. In fact, many parts of society tend to see women as “natural” in this role, according to Washington, and this may lead to less support being offered, simply because family members assume the female caregiver doesn’t need it. Research has also shown men tend to under report their challenges.  More research is underway to isolate and account for these variables.  Whatever the final numbers, clearly care-giving is difficult and draining. Both sexes need to be offered help and support when caring for a loved one.

Nonetheless, early research is revealing long standing biases against women care-givers, resulting in them being unduly burdened, all factors being considered.

Four Tips:

  1. Speak Up. Don’t hesitate to ask for help, regardless of your gender. There is no shame in doing so. When you have a family member who is terminally ill and you have other responsibilities to deal with, it’s time to call in outside help. Regardless of the outcome, reach out to other family members or loved ones.
  2. Take Care of Yourself.  When you take care of yourself, you are better able to care for your loved one in their time of need. There’s no guilt in tending to yourself first. Everyone involved in the patient’s life will benefit when you do.
  3. Call the Doctor. If you find you are struggling to obtain the help you need, contain your loved one’s physician. They can often direct you to assistance within the community. You are not alone, as more people are being called on to care for family members. Help is available if you know where to turn, so continue looking until you find those resources of most benefit to you.
  4. Go outside the Family. It may  be necessary to seek professional help from various sources. Consider contacting an Aging Life Care Professional in your region. Research Respite Care Options”  in your city or zipcode.  Some regions provide nearly free Respite Care Options. See whats available near you.  Respite Care falls into two categories: In-Home and Out-of-Home.  For In-Home, options include: Volunteer and paid companionship (yes there are volunteers available); personal and “skilled health” services. Out-of-Home Respite services include: Caregiver support groups; Adult Day Care programs and respite care in another’s residence.

In the comment section below, feel free to provide tips and ideas for others as to how you have protected and sustained yourself through the care giving process.  So many other may appreciate it and benefit from it.


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March 16, 2018 |

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