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The Rise of Male Caregivers

by | Aug 2, 2021

In March of last year, ALS Texas launched a caregiver group just for women, Brewed Awakenings.  This group has seen tremendous growth in the last year, and so many ladies throughout the state have connected in both a unique and shared journey to lift each other up, share caregiving resources, and offer encouragement and support in a life experience that most will never truly understand.

Fritz Weiss

Now, in 2021, we are excited to finally launch our Men’s Caregiver Group, co-facilitated by husband, father, caregiver, and business leader, Fritz Weiss. Our mission is to support every member of the family, in every way that we possibly can, and this new connection group will allow us to support the rise of male caregivers.

Many may imagine a typical family caregiver to be an older woman caring for a loved one and delivering supportive services without pay. Though men may not be typically seen as caregivers today, the truth is that 40 percent of family caregivers are male.

Around 16 million men—husbands, sons, uncles, brothers, and close friends—are caregiving for a loved one, and that number is continuing to grow. (AARP)

Fritz Weiss is married to Laura Weiss, whom he met in a Freshman Chemistry Lab class at Texas A&M in 1983. They married in 1992 and have three wonderful children.

Laura began experiencing symptoms in early 2017 and was diagnosed with Bulbar Onset ALS in June of 2017. Laura and Fritz are both native Houstonians and were still living in Houston at the time.  Shortly after the diagnosis, they moved to the Lake Travis area outside Austin to be closer to family and to enjoy the lake.

As caregivers, men often have smaller emotional support networks and are less likely to seek out programs that could increase their caregiving capabilities and help them cope with this major life change.  Additionally, the insight below regarding male caregivers was also revealed in a recent AARP survey:

  • 66% of men work 40 hours a week. 62% of this group had to make special arrangements for work. 48% were tardy, left early, or took time off to handle caregiving duties. 15% had to take a leave of absence or work part-time.
  • 37% refrained from telling their employer about their caregiving responsibilities. For millennials, that rose to 45%.

According to the Journal of Men’s Studies, “male family caregivers are misperceived as performing only financial and transportation assistance, while women take care of hands-on needs such as dressing, bathing, and cooking.” However, we know that male caregivers do much more than just that.

Last year, during National Family Caregivers Month, we introduced you to husband and caregiver, Tyler Wood. When asked his biggest struggle as a male caregiver, Tyler replied, “Thinking like a woman-you have to somewhat get in a woman’s head as a male caregiver and that’s dang near impossible for us guys! It’s the mental game that you have to play with yourself. As men, we don’t think about that stuff, but the ladies, they still want to look pretty; they still want to feel pretty.  Feeling pretty for a woman is huge.”  And the biggest challenge within this? Sharing in his genuine approach that always contains some humor and laughter, Tyler quickly offers, “I do not like touching feet.”  He adds with a more serious tone,

Clipping her toenails, painting her toes…you know doing all that stuff- you really start to think about what attracted you to your spouse. It’s almost like you gotta think about being the opposite sex, and what they think is important and make that important to yourself as well. When you take the time and make her feel pretty, it’s amazing the glow that comes out of her, and the more zeal for life she has, despite the situation she’s in.

Fritz Weiss has been the primary caregiver for Laura since her diagnosis.  As ALS has progressed, Laura’s caregiving needs have increased, and to support those needs, some extremely difficult “executive decisions” have to be made along the way.   In helping to co-facilitate and lead the ALS Texas Men’s Caregiver Group, Fritz will bring his personal experience in juggling the hands-on daily skills and emotional support required of a caregiver, as well as the balancing act of maintaining self-care and continuing to use his personal gifts in a life lived on Purpose.

Fritz earned a degree in Computer Science from Texas A&M in 1987, and had a long, successful career as an Information Technology professional. In 2013, after Fritz retired from the corporate world, he and Laura bought a Salons by JC franchise and began developing and operating salon suite locations.

Fritz has always had a strong interest in real estate and has owned residential and commercial investment properties in Texas and Louisiana.  His experience with Salons by JC gave him further exposure to the world of commercial real estate. During the pandemic and while being a caregiver, Fritz got his Texas real estate agent license and has started working with a local broker to grow a new career in real estate. Also, during this time Fritz earned a US Coast Guard captain’s license. It is amazing what you can do online now!

Before ALS entered his family’s life, Fritz enjoyed spending time on Lake Travis with family and friends, and saltwater fishing on the Texas Gulf Coast and other locations around the globe. He hopes to be able to return to these hobbies someday.

If you are a male caregiver in Texas, you are not alone. We invite you to join us every second Monday of the month for this virtual group.  If you know one or more of the 16 million male caregivers in the nation, invite them to connect and engage with our ALS Texas community, as we support this rising group of caregivers.

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