Study Finds That Men Provide Care As Often As Women

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Contrary to popular belief, men provide as much caregiving to a loved one as women, according to a recent study. This comes as no surprise to many agents. It is “absolutely true,” confirms MaryAnne Ibach, a certified financial planner who works in the Falls Church, Va., office of MetLife.

“In my own family,” she says, “its my brother who is the caregiver for my mother. The study is finally pointing out that caregiving is a family affair.”

When Ibach talks to couples about long term care insurance, she says she talks to them as a family that will handle the challenges of providing LTC together, rather than suggesting that one member has more responsibility for the care than anyone else.

“I think men are not ducking the issue in terms of buying the insurance,” she says. However, she allows that some may not want to acknowledge the fact that theyre caregivers because they think an employer might not look favorably at it.

“In years gone by,” she explains, “having to deal with workplace and family matters was a stigma against women.”

Today, she adds, if there is a stigma, “I dont think there should be, because men make wonderful caregivers.”

Called the “The MetLife Study of Sons at Work: Balancing Employment and Eldercare,” the new study was conducted for the MetLife Mature Market Institute by the National Alliance for Caregiving, Bethesda, Md., and Towson Universitys Center for Productive Aging.

It points out that men are more likely to report that “neither their superiors nor their co-workers know they are caregivers,” says Sandra Timmermann, gerontologist and the director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute, Westport, Conn.

She says the major findings are 1) that men are caregivers; 2) that men are doing the same kinds of care as women (with the exception of certain tasks) but are still in the workforce; and 3) the common wisdom–that women are the caregivers in the society–is incorrect.

“Many loyal men have been devoted caregivers,” says Timmermann.

This means that people selling the product need to be aware that the men they are selling to could be the caregiver, she says. “Many assume its the womans job. One way for an agent to sell is to talk about what theyve been through,” she says.

A man who is a caregiver to a parent can be “very sensitive to the need to make some provisions for his own family, so his kids dont have to go through what hes going through,” Timmermann explains.

Another way to talk to a man about being a caregiver is in the third person, she says. Talk about caring for someone in terms of it being a human experience that everyone goes through, she says. Agents can tell clients that caregiving is common, particularly with older baby boomers, the oldest of whom are now 57. The older boomers are likely to have parents in their 70s and 80s, Timmerman says, so talking generally about caregiving experiences can break the ice and resonate with the person.

“It used to be that people talked about child rearing,” she observes. “Now people talk mostly about my parents. Should I stay in the house Ive been living in? Whats the role of the siblings? Were all resonating to this issue as we grow older and that makes us think about our own aging.”

Men are just as interested in buying LTC insurance as women, says Melissa Marrama, a broker with Jennifer Borislow Agency in Andover, Mass. In her experience with selling the product, women under 65 suffer more strokes and contract diabetes and Alzheimers disease more often than do men. “So the men are actually caregivers,” she says.

Marrama sells a plan that covers both spouses. When clients bought the plan a few years ago, she recalls, the male spouses “were in denial.” A lot of the men would buy coverage on their wives, but not themselves. Now that some of the wives are getting sick, the men are seeing the value of the coverage for themselves as well, Marrama says.

Men are entering the health care profession more now than ever before, points out Barbara Fiscarel, an independent broker in Brooklyn, N.Y. This is perhaps why more attention is being placed on men as informal caregivers as well, she says.

The MetLife study, mentioned above, shows what Fiscarel says she has been seeing in her practice for quite some time–that caregiving affects the whole family, not just one spouse. “More and more, men are becoming geriatric care managers, or (work elsewhere) in the arena of paid caregivers,” she says. “That could be one of the major reasons that the role of men as informal caregivers is coming to light in studies. Theyre now employees of the caregiving system.”

This article first appeared in the July 2003 edition of LTC e-Wire, an online publication of National Underwriter Life & Health edition.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, September 8, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.