Men over the age of 65 caring for ill or disabled relatives often feel isolated and ignored according to a study from Lancaster University Centre for Ageing Research.
There are around six million people in England and Wales caring for family members, saving the UK economy more than £119bn a year.
Though most women still undertake the bulk of informal caregiving, amongst older carers this picture changes. Amongst those over the age of 65, there are more men (15%) providing care than women (13%).
Professor Christine Milligan and Dr Hazel Morbey interviewed older male carers ranging from a retired doctor to a taxi driver. All but one had either retired from work or given up work to care for their wives fulltime.
They found that the older male carers often felt isolated and without any supportive networks.
Harry, caring for his disabled wife and autistic grandson, said: “I feel trapped, I don’t have a social life and I just feel I am in a situation that does not have any way out.”
Many of the male carers found it hard to identify themselves as being carers, feeling that it was their role to look after their families. They also felt excluded from carer support groups which were female-dominated.
Jeffrey, a retired factory worker caring for his wife with cerebral palsy and his elderly mother-in-law, said: “Women will go for a coffee and talk about girlie things and I’m not invited, I just get the jobs, you know the domestic jobs and none of the fun bits.”
Professor Milligan said older male carers often struggled on until they reached a crisis.
“Practitioners in health and social care need to provide more gender appropriate support for older male carers who can find it hard to see themselves as carers and even harder to ask for support.
“This could be through online support groups, peer mentoring schemes or counselling targeted at older male carers.”