"Courageous care partners recharge with self-care, striving for peaceful pinnacles
in patience, persistence, and positive 
changes, knowing when to conquer and when to comfort."

A Bromance is Very Important

Apr 05, 2020 by Eileen Adler

Bromance is very important, especially if you are a male care partner because it represents a non-sexual but close relationship between men: Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine, Bruce Springsteen and the late E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons, George Clooney and Brad Pitt, and even Ernie and Bert are samples of bromances. Why would this matter? This fact arrived as a surprise: close to forty percent of care partners are men, this according to AARP, although statistically, men don’t fit the stereotypical care partner, that of an unpaid forty-nine-year-old woman. Society is teetering on new ways to organize itself; the difference between men and boys is no longer the price of their toys. Phillip Chan explained being a man this way: “It means having the courage to initiate conflict resolution and having the wisdom to communicate clearly and generously. It means having the adventuring spirit to know another person deeply. It means having the humility to not compete against others and how to be a person of character, how to be a person of purpose, and how to love people.”

There may be a difference, however, in how care is administered. Women, often as an extension of being mothers, appear to be more comfortable with the intimacies of caring, giving baths or attending to personal hygiene care while men may be more uncomfortable with this. But maybe the biggest difference, and maybe the most detrimental, is the feeling of isolation. Why? James Dotson of Silver Spring, Md., who has been caring for his mother explained it his way, "We just hold stuff in." 

But the support that male care partners crave but not able to access may result from the way boys develop friendships and how these evolve when they become men. By the time boys become men, they may not have any male friends around, close or otherwise, harkening back to James Dotson’s reason; they get caught up in the unspoken rules of being manly, resulting in the epidemic of loneliness.

A standard tenet of being a care partner is to take care of yourself, eat well, sleep well, join a support group, and exercise but we haven’t added into the quotient, friendships, and social connections. We talk about joining a support group, but I wonder, is there anyone there you would call in the middle of the night if you needed help? Are these very caring people friends in the true definition of the word? The researchers are finding that social isolation among men is serious. Are the relationships among adult men fraught with the old ideas of what it means to be a man because as they grow up, it became harder for them to express tenderness and vulnerability.

What we know to be true about today’s care partners:

  1. The caregiving is more intense and address multiple health conditions, often associated with pain. Pain medication requires constant monitoring and frequent adjustments, making pain an ongoing unpleasant focus and adding to the stressful feeling of the loss of control for both the person being cared for and the family care partner. 
  2. The responsibilities are greater including challenges in physical, cognitive, and behavioral health, and higher levels of medical/nursing tasks. It may be assumed that every home is or could be a care facility but, of course, this is not true.
  3. Today’s care partners are diverse and arrive at care partnering with different experiences and expectations and cultural differences.
  4. Care partners may feel more isolation because this was not a choice but rather an obligation expected from other family members or the medical community. Social isolation compounds difficulties with complex care, across generations and cultural groups.  
  5. The fear of performing complicated medical/nursing tasks add to the stress because of concerns with making mistakes. Educating care partners is not part of the paradigm yet so they may feel stranded and frightened.The Caregiver Advise Record Enable (CARE) Act has been enacted in 41 states, yet there is more to do to ensure that the intent of the act reaches family care partners across the nation.  

Care partnering is no longer informal completed by unpaid and untrained people. Today, they are part of the health care system and provide extensive care.  

Self-care Rituals: Some tips for male family care partners—and females too—to make sure they don’t burn out:

  1. Join a support group that meets online or in-person because they provide an opportunity to commiserate and share.  
  2. Take care of yourself. Either continue or begin to eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise, and get a good night’s sleep consistently.  
  3. Ask for help or additional help with care from other family members. Raise your hand rather than maintaining stoicism. Men especially tend to take on a family care partner role as another job they must handle independently when the reality is that a team of loving and quality care might benefit everyone.
  4. Take a break which can make a difference in the ability to re-energize.