In November 2018, Alex Belth, the editor of Esquire Classic, published an article in Men’s Health magazine, How Our Relationship Survived When My Partner Got Sick. The article chronicles how his relationship with his spouse survived her chronic illnesses. Aside from my obvious interest as a male caregiver, I was surprised by how Alex’s story likely paralleled that of my dad who also cared for my mom throughout her life. My mom suffered from Crohn’s disease just as does Alex’s wife, and as she aged, her condition was also complicated by a range of related medical and neurological conditions.
My dad, who passed in June 2018 and had survived my mom by 13 years, was a male caregiver long before anyone acknowledged that men could play that role. Importantly, this was during the 1950’s and ’60s when people just didn’t talk about illness and support resources were non-existent aside from your primary medical provider. In fact, I didn’t know the full extent of my mom’s maladies until I was in my late teens.
I hope that times have changed though I recognize how difficult it still may be for men to talk about what is going on in their lives. It’s important to encourage communication both between the partners and with the broader medical and caregiver community. National Caregivers Day is on February 21. This provides an excellent opportunity to take stock of those around you who are caregivers — you may have to look carefully as it may not be obvious. Seek out and embrace these people for they are the unsung heroes of our day.
I’d love to hear some (anonymous) stories of unsung heroes you know , especially your own.