Male Caregivers' Greatest Challenge

Aging Today, July/August 2008 | Go to article overview

Male Caregivers' Greatest Challenge


Even though Louis Colbert directs a metropolitan area agency on aging, he found himself "scared to death" last fall when his family asked him to help care for his declining mother.

Because she has diabetes, Parkinson's disease, dementia and a heart ailment, Colbert's mother receives adult day care during the week from one of six Programs for All-inclusive Care of the Elderly, or PACE, in the Philadelphia area. Colbert described his eldercare experience to conference-goers at the closing general session of last spring's Aging in America Conference in Washington, D.C.

'UNSURE OF MYSELF'

Colbert recalled that the first time he rushed from work to his mother's house for his caregiving shift, "I was brain dead." Although he has been a professional in the aging services network since 1977, he said, "I was unsure of myself; I didn't know what I was going to do-this is my mother I'm talking about"

In some instances, Colbert's professional experience in aging came to the fore. Following a hospitalization and subsequent transfer to a nursing home, his mother's condition deteriorated. "I ended up having to go toe-to-toe with the medical director and [my mother's] physician," he said. Colbert's large family divided their mother's daily schedule to provide 24-hour care at home. "Instantly, she turned around," he stated.

As a son, though, Colbert found himself sharing his most daunting challenge with other male family caregivers: the "incredible personal struggle" of providing physical care for one's mother.

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