Friday 4 October 2013

Male Caregiver Community - Because Men Care Too

This morning, I had the pleasure of chatting with Scott McNabb,  Executive Director of Homewatch CareGivers Canada.  Like many other passionate professionals in the caregiving field, Scott is a former caregiver himself.  Together with his sister, the McNabb siblings looked after their parents until they died.  Scott explained that his father was physically strong, but suffered from Alzheimer's.  And although his mother's mind was clear, her body was frail.  After learning difficult lessons from the front lines of caregiving, Scott wanted to help others, so he quit his job as an insurance executive and 'traded the board room for the living room'.

I was particularly interested in talking to Scott McNabb about his interest in supporting male caregivers.  Homewatch CareGivers is unique in hosting 'The Male Caregiver Community', an online support forum for men who give care to their loved ones.  In Canada, 46% of all caregivers are male and this trend away from traditional gender roles in caregiving is growing throughout North America and beyond.  More young fathers are taking advantage of paternity leave, while older men are looking after their spouses with illness or their children with disabilities.  As more women are employed and our society ages, it stands to reason that men will give care in ever greater numbers with each passing year.

But Scott McNabb maintains that men seek and benefit from caregiving support in ways that are different from women.  "When I walk into a cocktail party, I see women congregate to share opinions and expertise on anything from eldercare to the purchase of new curtains.  Men don't do that.  They might talk about the latest hockey scores, but they don't discuss emotional topics in a public, social setting."  Scott McNabb knew first hand how difficult it was for him to find support during the ten years that he cared for his parents, so he decided to create a men's support group.  McNabb told me, "When the men came to the support group without their partners, they opened up.  If someone expressed a particular challenge, there would always be others who would jump in with suggestions or advice.  When I get a call for help at Homewatch from a woman, it's usually because she is burnt out from trying to work, look after her children and give care to her aging parents, all by herself.  When I get a call from a man, it's usually at the beginning of the caregiving journey, because men tend to have a more managerial approach.  They research from the get-go and they tend to delegate right away.  Both are loving people, but they approach their caregiving responsibilities very differently.  And the support they need in caregiving is very different too."

So, the Men's Support Network was born.  McNabb believes that male caregivers appreciate the anonymity of the online information exchange and they need a place to find resources that are tailored for their unique life experience.

Something tells me that Scott McNabb is on to something and that he is ahead of his time.  I'm going to show my husband The Men's Support Network.  I bet he'll love it.

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