Having a conversation about assisted living for Dad can be difficult, but some males have an especially tough time accepting the fact that they may need more care as they get older. Perhaps this is because Baby Boomers have been expected to provide for their families and be handy around the house. Older fathers sometimes have a hard time believing that they can no longer live on their own and often resist movement to assisted living for your father.
Assisted Living for Dad
If you are considering assisted living for Dad, you may need to approach the subject and your search differently compared to preparing for assisted living for your Mother. This article will help you stay focused on the unique needs of men in assisted living so you can find the ideal assisted living for Dad.
The Health and Age Gap in Men and Women
Men are greatly outnumbered in most senior assisted living communities. In fact, the ratio is often seven to one in some assisted living communities. The ratio in nursing homes is even higher—sometimes ten to one. This could be because women often live far longer than men (seven years on average), or it could be that women are more willing to transition to assisted living than men.
Different Risks in Men and Women
Women are generally less affected by certain health conditions, especially heart diseases. Even though women have heart problems as well, their heart problems may not start affecting them until long after the average age of death for a man with a heart condition.
Men also have a higher risk of:
- Liver disease
- Lung disease
Each year, approximately 30,000 more men die of cancer compared to women.
Psychosocial factors also play a role in the decreased life expectancy for men. For example, men are more likely to engage in risky behaviors and are more likely to smoke and consume alcohol. Unfortunately, men also have higher suicide rates compared to women as well.
Women are more likely to develop minor, but debilitating conditions, such as arthritis. Women may need more assistance in daily tasks because of these conditions, which may make them more likely candidates for assisted living communities. Women also have higher rates of Alzheimer’s disease development as well. This unique condition is often appropriately addressed with a move to an assisted living community.
Less of a Gap in Life Expectancy
The life expectancy gap between men and women is shrinking, however, and it has been for some time. The number of men living in assisted living communities and nursing homes is expected to rise over the next few decades.
Reasons Men Move to Assisted Living
As men live longer, they are often making the move to assisted living. Some of their reasons may be slightly different than women’s reasons, however.
Adults in the United States have fewer children now than in prior generations. By 2040, males 85 and older are expected to have 21 percent fewer children compared to earlier years. Younger friends and loved ones may also be facing similar issues, so they may not be able to provide care either.
Unavailable Adult Children
Children are often moving away from parents, which makes taking care of elderly parents more difficult. By the time Dad needs care, adult children are often in their busiest points of their lives with their own careers and children. Adults are delaying children today as well, which affects the traditional older parent-adult child dynamic. This transition can make caring for Dad on a regular basis difficult.
Serious Health Conditions
Men are more likely to develop serious health conditions, and some of these conditions require more care than children or loved ones can provide. Of males that are in assisted living communities currently, roughly 75 percent have two more chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, or depression.
Women may see assisted living as a chance to be more social and be a part of a community, but men sometimes struggle with viewing assisted living in this way. Men are far less likely to make a move to assisted living without a serious health reason to motivate them to make that move.
Gender and Assisted Living: Making the Transition
Research indicates that men have a harder time adjusting to the changes associated with assisted living. This is, in part, why the conversation you have with Dad regarding assisted living for Dad may not be the same as the conversation that you have with Mom. The process for choosing the right assisted living for Dad location will often vary as well.
The some research explains, “Conditioned throughout their lives to be strong, controlling, and independent, men can be devastated by the losses that are associated with aging. They may feel that they no longer have anything to contribute to society and may find it very difficult to depend on others for everyday tasks.”
For most males, especially those in the Baby Boomer generation, employment has been a central focus in their life. No longer being able to work (or needing to work) is a huge adjustment for many men. In some situations, men have not had much time to do recreational activities as working adults, so they are unsure of what to do with their free time in retirement or while in an assisted living community.
Adjusting to the Loss of a Spouse
Research indicates that men often do not adjust as well after the loss of a spouse. This may be because men have been trained from a young age not to show emotion or that they believe they cannot talk about how they are feeling after a loss. It may also be that men lack a similar support network when compared to women. Women can sometimes discuss their feelings with close family and friends, but men may not have this luxury. Men also may not have as many close relationships as they reach their later years.
Having the Transition Conversation with Dad
Speaking with your Father about the transition to an assisted living community can be particularly challenging because of the unique trials males face as they get older. When having this conversation, you may want to focus on items that may be of particular consider to your Dad. This might include:
- Opportunities for contribution
- Individual or smaller group activities
- Mentoring opportunities
Talking to your Dad may involve a more matter-of-fact approach compared to a conversation with your Mother. Using specific examples of your concerns or explaining how the assisted care community will be beneficial is often the best approach for males.
Research indicates that males do not think about the future as much as females do, so using a “present” approach may be helpful as well. If there was a specific incident that happened recently that triggered this conversation, specifically mention that and explain that you want to avoid problems like that in the future. Men are often logical thinkers, so statements that appeal to the inevitability of aging may be helpful.
Finding the Right Fit for Dad
Some argue that assisted living communities are more tailored toward women than men. This can, unfortunately, make the transition to assisted living for Dad even more difficult. Some men can also find the disproportionate women to men ratio intimidating.
It is important to find a place where your Father will be comfortable. Be sure to take your Father on a visit to the assisted living community so he can get a “feel” for the location. If it is filled with pink curtains and teddy bears, and that makes your Dad uncomfortable, then you should find a location that is either more gender-neutral or more masculine to fit his tastes.
You should also speak to the community representatives about particular concerns that your Dad might have.
- Are there activities they he would like, or are the activities more geared toward the women in the community?
- Is there an opportunity to spend time with other males in the community such as through a buddy system or events specifically geared toward men?
- Are there opportunities for your Dad to help out in the community or be assigned specific tasks?
- What is the ratio of men to women? Will your Dad have other men to “bond” with?
- Is there an opportunity for you or your Father to speak with current male residents to get thoughts on their experience?
- Are there any males on the staff?
Every Dad is Different
Every Dad is different—perhaps your Dad will do perfectly fine in a location that has mostly women. If your Dad is a “man’s man,” however, he may not do as well with the adjustment if he cannot interact with other men in a meaningful way.
It is important to keep in mind that your Dad may require more masculine activities and décor to be comfortable in his new home. Gender may matter more than you might think when your Dad makes the move to assisted living.
Asking the right questions and speaking with your Dad to determine his preferences can go a long way. Finding the right assisted living community for your Father is possible, and Cobbdale Assisted Living can help you to determine if our assisted living community is the right fit for Dad.