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International Carers Conference Paper

MEN CARE TOO - By Greg Smith

Abstract (full paper)

Results from the 2015 Australian Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers show that almost 1.2 million Australian men provide informal, unpaid care. This number could be even higher when considering ‘Hidden’ carers, a term used to define those who are unwilling or unaware of how to recognise the caring role as separate to the typical husband, partner, son, brother, mate relationship. The caring role may also go unrecognised where a care recipient is opposed to the concept of requiring support.

Men are largely underrepresented in carer research and so based upon the current evidence, planning and delivery of services and support is seldom targeted at men in an effective way. Studies focused solely on the male caregiving experience are few and generally report on condition specific caring roles with small study cohorts. In my experience as a carer, facilitator and working with men in caring roles, I don’t often hear men say they are a carer. Alternatively they ‘look after’, ‘help’ or ‘manage’ whatever needs to be done, methodical and devoted, working towards improving quality of life for someone close to them.

The caring role can be a complex, challenging, beautiful and emotional experience that provides a unique perspective on life. Understanding the male perspective of the caring role presents a challenge for the research community, government, organisations, service providers and community groups to better assist men who are often only reaching out for assistance when at a crisis point.

Innovative research opportunities exist for the carer community to explore relationships between the male caring role and topics such as masculinity, male suicide, health and social services workforce and social connectedness. This research will help shape a more inclusive approach to the management, planning and delivery of carer policy and programs, resulting in improved social connectedness, physical and emotional wellbeing and utilisation of services amongst male carers.

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