More and more men are caring for their wives and other loved ones who have Alzheimer's, or other forms of dementia. Although the majority of caregivers are still women, the percentage of caregivers who are men has doubled in the last 15 years—rising from 19 percent to 40 percent.

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Two-thirds of Alzheimer's patients over age 65 are women, according to the Alzheimer's Association, and the number of men caring for them is expected to continue to rise. Women are not more likely to develop Alzheimer's than men are, but they tend to live longer, therefore a greater number of women suffer from the disease. About half of all caregivers provide care for a parent, and 6 to 17 percent care for a spouse.

What Is It Like To Be A Caregiver?

In a recent story, USA Today profiled the Becklenbergs, a couple in their late 60's. Six years ago, Mary Ann was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and John has been caring for her at home ever since. Being the caregiver is “sad" and “lonely on some levels," shares John. “Males try to fix stuff."

Alzheimer's caregivers often experience great levels of stress. The devastating and incurable disease can last for a long time, as patients gradually lose their abilities to carry out the simplest daily tasks, and eventually their memories and personalities. Alzheimer's caregivers typically report needing to help with more daily tasks than those who care for loved ones with other chronic illnesses, which can become a very great burden.

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Difficulties For Male Caregivers

Sometimes it is more difficult for male caregivers to ask for the help that they need, and sometimes they lack the social support that many female caregivers naturally gravitate towards. Some men take over the household jobs their wives had always taken care of—learning to cook meals and care for the house—and many men even help their loved ones take care of personal needs, like bathing and dressing. Both men and women caregivers should find additional help from home health nurses, other home service providers and paid caregivers.

The Alzheimer's Association, the National Association for Area Agencies on Aging and the AARP Caregiving Resource Center all offer support for caregivers. Their websites list local resources and support groups and provide information about adult day services.

The Alzheimer's Association has a 24-hour helpline; staff can offer assistance and guidance on many areas. One husband called for advice on how to help put on his wife's pantyhose—it is these kinds of simple and mundane tasks that many caregivers must struggle with on a daily basis, under difficult emotional circumstances.

The Need For More Caregiver Support

As more people live longer and the baby boomers age, the number of people with Alzheimer's is expected to increase. More men and women will be called on to care for their loved ones. The National Alliance for Caregiving and other organizations are trying to educate the public about the needs of caregivers, and get the government involved in helping.