All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for June 2003

Men as caregivers

Wednesday, June 11, 2003 2:32 PM PDT
By Jim Rydingsword
Albany Democrat-Herald

A wife is diagnosed with dementia. A parent who lives alone has a stroke. A divorced son raises his young children while caring for his aging father.

Seniors in need of help are depending more on a spouse, son, son-in-law or brother for assistance than in the past. And whereas once women naturally took on the responsibilities of caring for an older loved one, men increasingly are becoming primary caregivers, now comprising nearly one-third of the total, according to the Alzheimer's Association and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

A national long-term care survey reports that the participation of sons as primary caregivers increased by 50 percent between 1984 and 1994. National demographic trends project that increased longevity for both men and women will probably place more responsibility on male caregivers in the future.

Traditionally, men have often not been prepared to care for spouses or elderly relatives. For many men, taking care of a loved one may involve learning routines for which they have never been responsible - from cleaning, cooking, shopping and laundering to daily personal care, supervision and financial support.

One of the country's most well-know male caregivers is Roll Call columnist Morton Kondracke, one of the "Beltway Boys" on the Fox News Channel. His book, "Saving Milly: Love, Politics and Parkinson's Disease," chronicles 13 years of his wife's illness, detailing his caretaking activities and the changes wrought upon their family.

The political pundit reveals a new side of himself as he works through his own frustrations and insecurities to take on the role of caregiver. Kondracke doesn't airbrush the realities of Parkinson's as he shares the growing disabilities his wife has endured. She is dependent on others for physical care and barely able to communicate and, not surprisingly, her illness has resulted in deep depression.

Researchers, service providers and support groups are beginning to identify relevant information and interventions for the men in caregiving situations. The Eldercare Locator is the best and most accessible resource for older adults and caregivers.

Through the Eldercare Locater, the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging puts callers in touch with caring, highly trained specialists in their local community. A public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging, the nationwide toll-free number is available Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. until 5 p.m. Pacific time. The number is 1-800-677-1116. More information is available on the Internet at

Jim Rydingsword is director of Senior Services for the Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments, the Area Agency on Aging for Benton, Linn and Lincoln counties, he can be reached at (541) 924-4545

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