When you hear the word caregiver you probably think of a woman, but the number of men as caregivers are growing.
Now they comprise about 44 percent of the care-giving ranks, and these men face particular challenges as they tend to their loved ones.
Helen and Bob Gauvreau have been married 56 years. They raised four children, two boys, two girls. Judy is the oldest daughter. But through it all this phase of life is something neither could foresee. Bob is Helen's caregiver. Helen has Alzheimer's.
"I can't think of us as we used to be. I've got to be grateful for the way she is now."
Until Helen's diagnosis, Bob took a back seat to running the house. Now it's all on him, and at 79 it's not a job he was prepared for.
Bob said, “My father told me patience is a virtue often found in women but seldom found in men. And I have to be careful, my tolerance and all that."
He's more than tolerant. He's Helen's everything all the time.
An avid runner, Bob steals a little time every morning to get out, but that's all. Because the disease is so disorienting, Helen is always at his side.
Q: "Helen, you know you have Alzheimer's."
"Yes, I do."
Q: “Do you know what that means, though?"
Q: "Do you get frustrated?"
Q: "Do you know what makes you frustrated?"
"No, that's probably why I'm frustrated because I don't know what I'm doing."
All their children lend a hand, but in the end it's Bob, and it can be lonely.
Bob said, "Your friends, some of them are around but some kinda disappear because they don't know how to handle it. And a caregiver, particularly a man, doesn't like to ask for help."
But he's learning.
Now he's got a group of men, other caregivers, he speaks with by phone. He says it helps when he feels guilty that he should be doing more and when he feels overwhelmed.
He's the first to tell you his kids are a great help, but they know they walk a fine line between helping and being overbearing.
At day's end, Bob knows Helen would have done this for him. This and more.
Bob said, "All I do is think of what Helen's going through and how lucky I am, and that's what pulls me through."
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