A great opportunity exists to fill the deficit of home health care aides with the millions of American men out of work. The problem? Potential male hires, along with women and clients, are uncomfortable with men filling these traditionally feminine roles, according to a report from the New York Times.
Though as many as 20 million men had no paid work in 2015, they are resistant to available jobs in home health care, believing these jobs require practical and emotional skills that should be performed by women, according to the NY Times. Some view working as a caregiver to be a demeaning position for men, and sometimes, the women in their lives agree.
“Marriages have more problems when the man is unemployed than the woman,” Ofer Sharon, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, told the NY Times. “What does it mean for a man to take a low-paying job that’s typically associated with women? What kind of price will they pay with their friends, their lives, their wives, compared to unemployment?”
Additionally, many clients are less comfortable with male caregivers than female ones, worrying that they have a less caring demeanor and present greater threats of abuse or sexual predation.
“A lot of families prefer females,” Sherman Sheik, president and chief executive of CareLinx, a company that matches caregivers with families, told the New York Times. “It’s sad because there’s a lot of patients who could stay at home longer if there were more males in the field. They need assistance like getting in and out of bed, transferring to the shower—it’s a very physically demanding job.”
Timothy Dage, a home health aide who has worked with CareLinx for 25 years, said he has lost prospective clients who feel more comfortable hiring a woman. However, once he begins working with a patient, he never receives a request for a different, or female, caregiver, he said.
From the perspective of clients and potential new hires to the home health care industry, many of these biases and concerns come from untrue preconceptions. While men still do not represent a large percentage of home care workers, there are signs of growth for the future.
David Rolf, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 775 in Seattle, told the New York Times that the union runs one of the largest schools for home health care aides, training 40,000 students each year. Although only 20% of these students are men, the percentage has doubled in the past 15 years.
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Written by Elizabeth Jakaitis