As a male caregiver, I feel like I should discuss the various aspects that I have noticed throughout the years. Some are positive while others are negative. With the ever increasing amount of men entering the medical field and caring for their loved ones, I'm sure there are many that can relate to this topic.
I realize that this is a very controversial topic. There are so many factors that coincide with these situations. If this is a sensitive subject for you, just know that you have been warned. I am going to try my best to look at these scenarios from every perspective as best as I can but in the end, I can only understand so much. There is no way for me to understand every person and every situation.
I try to prevent this site from being political in nature and I am going to attempt to continue that trend here. However, it is impossible to not bring up anything that could be considered political in a sense. Just realize that I am not trying to sway anyone into any particular political party. I am simply trying to have a discussion that I hope will start a constructive conversation.
Many patients prefer not to have a male caregiver. This is true in hospitals, home health care, and in skilled nursing facilities. I have had many patients refuse care from me simply because I am a male. Many of them have actually stated that they have nothing against me personally, but they would rather have a female care for them.
Although I don't let this bother me too much, I can't say that it doesn't at all. The fact that someone would refuse to let me care for them over something I can't control doesn't really seem fair. I respect people's wishes and certainly don't force my care on them, but I also can't help but feel this world would be a slightly better place if this way of thinking was to change.
There is one thing that I want to make abundantly clear. I do not in any way feel as if men are better than women. Just because I work in a predominantly female field does not mean I am superior. I feel like men and women should both have equal opportunity to pursue whatever field of work they desire. There is nothing wrong with registered nurses being primarily female.
There is so much talk about men and women having equal rights and having equal opportunities in the workplace. If women want to be employed in predominantly male fields of work, males should be welcomed in predominantly female fields of work. I know many people agree with this on paper, but there are a few who don't seem to necessarily agree in practice.
Yes I am accepted in healthcare and even accepted as a nurse, but because of patient preference, I sometimes have limitations on who I can care for based soley on my gender. To me, that shows that people's thoughts may not be where they should be. At the end of the day, I am a caregiver attempting to spread my care to others. The gender of the patient has no effect on how well I care for them. I strive to keep my quality of care equal among everybody.
I do not blame this way of thinking on the healthcare field itself. I understand that there is no way for them to completely regulate patient's preferences. I am simply stating that this way of thinking should be addressed even if it is just sharing this article to others to help them see the situation differently. Sometimes people don't even understand their own biases until a new perspective is shown to them.
Different generations and cultures cause a lot of the controversy with this subject. They all don't always agree on the way things are done. Whether that makes them wrong is up for interpretation. Should they just "Get with the times" or should they cherish the way they have been raised?
This is where this subject gets especially sensitive. Nobody wants to be told that their loved ones raised them incorrectly but adjusting to changes in society isn't necessarily saying that. Different isn't necessarily wrong. It's just that what may have worked "back then" may not necessarily work just as well today. Our culture is constantly evolving.
I always try to be extremely respectful when it comes to the beliefs and customs of others. I would never intentionally disrespect anyone simply because our values don't match up. That would not only be shallow, but also just plain wrong. It is not my place, nor is it anyone else's to tell someone how to live their life. However, I do want people to be open minded and understand why they do the things they do.
I understand that there are concerns with females being harassed and taken advantage of. I agree that that should not be tolerated in any way, but putting all males in this category of potentially mistreating females just doesn't seem right. There are many examples of people now being guilty until proven innocent instead of how trials used to be conducted which is being innocent until proven guilty.
If the male has a criminal history of misconduct among women, of course there should be a cause for concern. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't blame any facility for not hiring a male if their background check came back as a previous offender. But on the other hand, if there has never been a record, or even a suspicion of misconduct, why should the individual suffer from the crimes of others?
Now there are situations where the female has had negative encounters with men in the past that has caused psychological trauma. Many of them get terrified just being alone with a male. I can't imagine how these women must feel and I'm not even going to try to. Nobody should ever experience some of the things these women have gone through.
The fact is that the issue has turned into something that they must be protected from. So in these situations, it is understandable for them to refuse personal care from a male. But this should be the exception and not the rule. If the sight of a male doesn't give the person fear and anxiety, why shouldn't they care for them?
It is human nature that males are often stronger, larger, and more aggressive than females. Therefore statistically, they are more likely to commit such heinous acts. I am not blind to that and I understand that. However, assuming that every male has the potential to do such horrible things is troubling in my eyes.
I have no intention of ever abusing women in any way, yet there are fields of work in which I am less welcome because I have the potential to do such things. If we all, including women, did every horrible act we were capable of, the world would be in absolute shambles. We can't rightfully assume such things of people simply because of their gender.
There is also the angle of being embarrassed when being cared for by a male. Although I can understand this to a degree, males have been getting this kind of care from females for years. I'm sure many of them are embarrassed at times, but they get past their embarrassment and allow the female to assist them when they need it.
It boils down to this, if the person needs help and there is someone willing to help them, why not let them? The embarrassing feeling will eventually die down if not go away completely if the care is given properly. There have been many patients that were initially embarrassed when I first gave them care but after they saw how I treated them and handled the situation, they would want my help again before a female's.
Approaching the situation professionally makes a world of difference. If you show signs of uncertainty or embarrassment, the other person will likely feel the same way. But by approaching them in a professional and confident manner you can put them at ease. It will prove that you are there to help them, you have had experience helping others, and that they can depend on you. Your mentality is to perform a duty and to make sure the person receiving the care gets the absolute best and nothing less.
Healthcare in general can be embarrassing if you observe it improperly. The fact is, it is not my place to judge anyone I care for. It is only my duty to make sure they get the best care possible. Discrimination of any kind should not be tolerated in any form of healthcare regardless of the history of the patient.
If someone has a disease that changes the way their body looks, if they are obese, or are having bodily functioning issues, it is not permitted for me or anyone else to pass judgment on them. When you boil down embarrassment to it's core, it's the fear of being judged by others. If I do this, I am in the wrong. But how is it fair if I don't even get the chance to prove that I am not that kind of person?
Even in saying all of this, there are still things that male caregivers should never do that female caregivers may get away with. These things should go without saying but I will still address them just in case.
Never joke about the females genitalia or make compliments about their body. Stating that the elderly woman has taken care of themselves and doesn't look their age may be appropriate when they are fully dressed, but not when they are exposed while giving them a bed bath.
I have seen many patients with breast implants. While female caregivers could more than likely get away with making a comment about it such as asking who their plastic surgeon was, a male asking such a question when it is not medically necessary would be considered sexual harassment and I agree. It would be and should be considered highly inappropriate.
It is not appropriate to ask a stranger about something they have done to their bodies to make them feel more attractive. The fact is, their goal wasn't to be more attractive in a medical crisis. They are not at a bar or club, they are in a facility to receive care and nothing more. You should not comment on something that wasn't meant for you or for the situation the patient is currently obligated to be in.
There have actually been situations where I, myself, refused to perform specific duties for patients by myself. This should be on a case by case basis and should be the exception and not the rule.
This is especially true when the patient is younger. For instance, there have been patients around my own age that have needed assistance onto the bedpan or have needed help with a bath. Some were completely alert and oriented while others were confused or sedated due to things such as a traumatic brain injury (TBI). With these patients, I always ask for assistance.
Why? Because it is always a good idea to have someone else in the room when vulnerable patients have to be exposed. This is simply to be certain that you can't potentially be blamed for anything. You never know when a confused patient or concerned family member will claim something happened either due to misinterpretation of the caregiver duties being performed or an attempt to sue an individual or facility.
This may sound silly but it's best not to assume you won't be misrepresented in any way. If you have to perform a sensitive task and you feel that there could be a potential lawsuit filed, it's probably best not to perform it alone. Don't just think of it as protecting yourself from getting into legal trouble, also think of it as being respectful to the other person and their family.
I feel like this should be handled the same way when there are male patients and female caregivers. If the female has to care for someone who is similar in age or younger than them, the buddy system should be utilized. It is better to be too careful than not careful enough. Keeping every encounter professional in nature should be a priority.
There have even been situations where the patient was being inappropriate and making suggestive advances towards me. It is one thing if the patient is a confused elderly lady but it is something entirely different when they are similar in age. In this situation, the caregiver should be changed to someone else. Otherwise, they could find themselves in a very compromising situation even if they don't make any advances themselves.
I will say that I am afraid of the idea of home health care (HHC) due to the fact that I am a male. I would be terrified that something would be said and I could get blamed for harassing someone. A situation could be misinterpreted or lost in translation. There could also be situations where the patient is confused and sees my perineal care as touching them inappropriately. This has actually happened to me in the workplace.
When situations like this arise in a facility, you can always have someone else in the room with you. But what would I do if this type of situation came up and I was the only one in the patient's residence? Who would be there to recognize that I was just doing my job? How would people know there wasn't any foul play done?
It is much easier to prove that the patient is simply unaware of what exactly is being done to them at the time if they are constantly being monitored in a facility setting. It is much easier to prove that the employee was just doing what needed to be done without causing harm whether it be physical or psychological. Without those resources, it is just your word against theirs.
I understand that there are successful male home health caregivers but I feel like for me personally, the risk outweighs the benefits. I would rather be somewhere where I know my license is much more safe from false claims that could potentially come about. Am I being too careful? Some people may say yes but I have encountered others that agree with me.
There is the genetic side of being a male caregiver that naturally makes us different from our female counterparts. Even though there are scientific studies that prove we are typically different than each other, I still feel like there are male traits that are just as useful in healthcare as female traits. We can both learn from each other.
For instance, males often struggle more with empathy. It's not that we do not care about the other person, we often don't know how to put ourselves in their position and feel their pain. This isn't always the case but it has been proven time and time again that it is typically true.
With that being said, we can still be empathetic. Some males are actually more empathetic than they should be while some females don't have enough. The fact is, empathy is not entirely gender specific and it can be learned. This goes deeper than gender. Some people just aren't cut out to be caregivers simply because they don't have the personality for it and that is perfectly okay. What's important is that this is recognized and addressed.
All caregivers should have at least some level of empathy. It makes the care they give real and genuine. However, if there is too much, things can get too personal and your feelings can get in the way of doing the right thing. There should be a balance that allows proper and professional care to be given in a compassionate and thoughtful way.
There are other aspects of males that in some ways may make them more capable caregivers. Many are stronger physically which makes them useful when it comes to assisting patients with some activities of daily living. I actually often get asked to assist with repositioning, lifting, and transferring patients and heavy objects. I've heard other male caregivers tell me they always get asked to help with more strenuous tasks too.
I've even had a manager tell me that when possible she likes to have at least one guy working on the hospital unit to help with tasks that females often struggle with. This is not to say that males are better than females, but we all have our strengths and weaknesses. We should utilize both of them as a team to accomplish tasks together.
Here is a question that I and other healthcare workers that I know have had for a very long time. Why is it that male doctors and surgeons get a free pass when it comes to taking care of female patients regardless of what needs to be done? The same patient who refuses to have a male certified nursing assistant (CNA) or registered nurse (RN) will gladly accept a male physician.
Is this due to the higher level of education? Does the patient feel like they can trust the individual more because they have been to school longer? Is it because they have a higher wage and are therefore more respected? Do they somehow think all doctors have more experience in the field? Do they not realize that they can change doctors if they wish to do so?
If it is for any of the reasons above, I personally feel like the reasoning is not justified. We are all human and we all work as a team. All positions are important and have a rightful place in this field. It almost feels like discrimination when this happens and it happens more than many people realize. If anyone knows a good reason for this, please let me know.
Don't be afraid to speak out when it comes to your feelings on this matter. There is nothing wrong with stating your opinions. I have just scratched the surface of this topic. There is so much more to discuss. Some of the statements made may seem rather bold but that was intentional. In fact, the main reason I brought up this topic was to spark conversation.
Although it may seem like I wrote this article because I feel as if I am being oppressed, I don't believe I am. Overall, I have been widely accepted in this field of work and I am forever grateful. But just because I have had overwhelmingly positive experiences throughout the years doesn't mean everybody else has too.
There is no need to suffer in silence. Don't be too afraid to speak out. There are ways to voice your opinion and let your feelings be known without harming or offending others. As long as you are willing to keep things civil, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments down below. I would love to hear the perspective of others on this matter regardless of whether you are male or female.