An estimated 40 percent of the caregivers in the United States are middle-aged men or older. It appears these men are rolling up their sleeves, jumping in and going hands-on. Whether caring for an elderly parent or an ill spouse, more and more are in it for the long haul, committing themselves to always being there for their loved one.

For generations, women have typically been the caregivers for any family members in need. This was often due to men being the primary breadwinners and women being at home and more available. Times have certainly changed, and since caregiving duties can be divided according to employment work schedules and not gender, my advice is, communicate with any employers involved, explaining the circumstances and what to anticipate in the near future. Attempt to work out a plan that will satisfy everyone involved. (Retaining employment may not only be important because of financial matters, but also due to the need for medical insurance coverage and maybe even personal self satisfaction.)

According to research, male caregivers are more likely to hold their emotions inside, creating more stress by not opening up and talking about their feelings. Men also refrain from asking for help until it is far too late (kind of like never asking for directions ͚til they become completely lost on a road trip).

As a male and my father͛s caregiver for over a decade, I always tried not to show any weakness. I knew my father was always counting on me and I never wanted to disappoint him. I felt as if my manhood was at stake. The bottom line here, however, is that not everyone can do this job. Don͛t be ashamed if you can͛t handle it. This feeling of inadequacy might haunt you for the rest of your life and I͛m sure that is not what your loved one would have wanted for you. If you cannot deal with it, find someone who can, and remain a supportive kinsman in his or her life.

Focus on the positive aspects of caregiving. I believe what kept me going the most was the companionship I shared with my dad. This may sound peculiar considering that throughout the last years of his life, he hardly recognized who I was; but, I will never regret the years that I spent with him. They just may have been the most exceptional times of my life.

So to my fellow male caregivers, these are the things you need to concentrate on: staying healthy, learning to ask for assistance, keeping some sort of social life and, most of all, maintaining a positive attitude.

As the Marines constantly cheer, ͞Semper Fi,͟ meaning, of course, Always Faithful.