Men at Work — As Caregivers

By Kelly Greene, The Wall Street Journal

Agencies and private firms are rolling out new tools and services to help the growing number of men taking on the role of family caregiver—many of whom are still trying to hold down their day jobs.

Although the traditional stereotype of a family member taking care of an elderly relative is a wife, daughter or daughter-in-law, 45% of Americans in that role are men, according to a Pew Research Center report published in July. It was based on interviews with more than 3,000 adults in 2010.

Lost wages from caring for parents will cost men who are 50-plus an average $89,107 in 2011 dollars over their lifetime.

Why more men? Social norms are changing, of course, with hands-on fathers becoming commonplace. The aging of the population means more elderly parents and spouses to care for with fewer children to help. And those children often are more geographically dispersed, says Leann Reynolds, president of Homewatch CareGivers, a home-care firm in Greenwood Village, Colo.

Ron Estell, a 62-year-old real-estate broker in Highlands Ranch, Colo., takes care of his parents, who live about 20 miles away. Both are in their 90s and suffer from dementia. Mr. Estell makes the trip several times a week, mowing their lawn, doing general maintenance and helping to clean up after their elderly dog. He also has hired in-home caregivers who, among other things, take them out for breakfast and lunch every day.

“At any moment, I’ll get a call for whatever reason you can think of,” he says. “I need to respond appropriately to either quell their fears or take care of something for them.”

Generally, when he is working with house sellers, Mr. Estell can work around it. When he is helping clients with contracts and closings, he gets backup help from a sister who works full-time, or his wife.

Before becoming a real-estate broker, Mr. Estell worked as a project manager at Quest Communications International. If he still had that job, he says, “I don’t believe I would have been allowed two years of part-time work.”

Lost wages from caring for parents will cost men who are 50-plus an average $89,107 in 2011 dollars over their lifetime, according to a study last year conducted for the MetLife Mature Market Institute. They also stand to lose an estimated $144,609 in Social Security benefits and $50,000 in pension benefits.

The worst part: Men, at least in Ms. Reynolds’s experience, are less likely to be aware of, or seek out, help.

After seeing differences in the way adult sons or husbands approached hiring in-home help from daughters or wives, and the additional strain it can put on their careers, she decided to start an online support group.

Many male clients, she says, “act more like case managers or care coordinators, [while] daughters tend to provide more of the personal care and want to know how other caregivers are going to relate to their loved one.”

Ms. Reynolds worried that male caregivers might be less likely to talk about issues or stress from caregiving, so her firm started a male caregiver community online where men could support one another and get advice from professionals.

Since it started in June, more than 84 discussions have developed, she says.

Here are a few other resources that can help working caregivers get help and, possibly, save some money.

BenefitsCheckUp. The National Council on Aging, a nonprofit advocacy group in Washington, developed this free service (, designed to help adults 55 and older tap government and private programs that could help them pay for prescription drugs, health care, in-home services and other needs. Adult-child caregivers have found it helpful to identify services quickly for which elderly parents in declining health could qualify.

Caregivers also often overlook their local area agency on aging, which can act as an on-the-ground clearinghouse for services, including connections to meals services, adult day services and transportation. The federal Eldercare Locator (, a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging, also can connect you to such services.

Help at work. “I think men miss the resources they could get through their employer,” says Sandy Markwood, a MetLife gerontologist who has studied family caregiving extensively. Many large companies offer free information and referral services for caregivers, and some even provide caregiving coaches. For help getting started, she suggests calling your employee-assistance program.

Geriatric-care managers. These professionals, typically social workers or registered nurses by training, can help you assess your loved one’s needs and arrange in-home or facility care, among other services. There is a directory, along with a list of questions to ask when hiring someone, at, the website of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers.

Veterans benefits. Wartime veterans who served at least 90 days of active military service may qualify for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ “aid-and-attendance benefit.” It helps pay for long-term care for veterans and their spouses if they meet certain thresholds for medical and financial need. It is an underused benefit with an arduous application process.

To find local help to apply, go to Next, click on “Locations,” then “State Veteran Affairs offices,” “Veterans Service Organizations” or “Regional Benefits Offices.”

Real-people support. Gary Barg, chief executive of Caregiver Media Group in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has seen the number of men increase over the years at the Fearless Caregiver conferences he has organized since 1997.

“Don’t think you should take yourself out of the circle of care because you’re a guy,” he says. “You need to take care of yourself and go to support groups.”

A number of caregiver support groups made up mainly of men are listed in the support-group locator at

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