Male family caregivers: A population needing support


By Mike Festa, State Director, AARP Massachusetts

Mike Festa

What’s your image of a caregiver? If you envisioned a middle-aged woman, one who is caring for an ailing parent, you wouldn’t be wrong. AARP research shows that the “typical” family caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who cares for a relative. However, caregivers on the whole are becoming as diverse as the American population. Men are rising to the challenge as family caregivers. These husbands, brothers, sons, partners, friends and neighbors now represent 40 percent of family caregivers, which equates to 16 million male caregivers in the United States today.

According to Caregiving in the U.S., a 2015 AARP survey done in conjunction with the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), 40 percent of family caregivers caring for adults are men. While men represent two out of five of the more than 40 million unpaid family caregivers in the U.S., very few reach out for support.

The average age for a son caring for a parent or in-law is 46.4 years old, while that of a male family caregiver caring for a spouse or partner is 62.5 years old. More than four in 10, or 44 percent have household incomes below $50,000 per year.

Although more than half of all male family caregivers (53 percent) had help from other unpaid caregivers in caring for their loved one, more than 78 percent of male family caregivers caring for a spouse did not. This long-term commitment made by male family caregivers is especially difficult for millennials who are often juggling caregiving responsibilities with work and school, often without paid help.

Despite common misperceptions, male family caregivers help with more than managing finances, performing home maintenance, and providing transportation. Evidence suggests male caregivers perform a wide range of personal care activities for their loved one, helping them with eating, dressing, bathing and toileting.

As men continue to take on caregiving roles, they are looking for specific information and support tailored to their needs. According to AARP’s report “Breaking Stereotypes: Spotlight on Male Family Caregivers,” more than half (63 percent) of male caregivers are the primary caregiver for their loved one. Due to cultural pressures and a lack of prior experience, more than half (54 percent) of all male caregivers report finding it difficult to help loved ones with intimate care needs such as feeding, dressing and bathing.

In order to successfully address the challenges of a surging population of older adults and others living with chronic conditions who have significant needs for longterm services and supports, AARP Massachusetts has filed legislation to establish a family caregiver tax credit, and is pleased that Representative Chris Walsh (D-Framingham) and Senator Linda Dorcena Forry (D-Dorchester) have sponsored this bill.

An Act to Establish the Family Caregiver Tax Credit would provide a tax credit for certain expenses incurred by a taxpaying family caregiver for the care and support of a qualifying family member aged 18 and older. To be eligible for the tax credit, the family caregiver claiming the credit must have a federal adjusted gross income of less than $75,000 for an individual and $150,000 for a couple, and incur expenses directly related to the care of an eligible care recipient.

An eligible care recipient must: (1) be age 18 or over; (2) require assistance with at least one activity of daily living (ADL), as certified by a licensed health care practitioner; (3) and qualify as a dependent, spouse, parent or other relation by blood or marriage to the family caregiver.

The amount of the credit is equal to 50 percent of the eligible expenses incurred by the taxpayer during the taxable year, with a maximum allowable credit of $3,000. The taxpayer is not entitled to a refund, carryback, or carryforward of any credit.

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