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Men: Feelings of Isolation

Ok, you have had some tough times……

  • You have had to make emergency decisions and assume roles in caregiving that you never thought you would have to assume.

Boat SinkingCaring for someone with stroke can be seen as having an emergency phase and a long-term phase.

  • What is the Emergency Phase?
    • Boat taking on water? Men are all about going into action to plug the hole. Motor stop working? With some pliers and duct tape, a man will get it fixed. The emergency phase is the first period of time when the whole world has changed with word of stroke.
    • Men are often very self-assured and feel good about the things they do in this emergency phase.
    • Studies show that men who are in the emergency phase tend to be action oriented and in command…just the approach needed to get over tough situations. Men may approach emergency situations and not need much extra help.

  • What is the Long Term Phase?
    • The long-term phase is that period of time when the shock of stroke is passed and work must begin to put together daily life. Men are not so good at is the long-term phase of a crisis. Dealing with the long-term part of the problem of being a caregiver (the physical care and emotional stuff) has traditionally been the part that women have been good at. Specifically, men are reluctant to reach out to others for help!
    • Physical care includes men providing assistance with bathing, dressing, grooming, toileting, etc. that is often seen as women's work.
    • Emotional stuff includes dealing with the loss of not only physical function, but also the companionship of their loved one who has survived a stroke.
    • Stroke causes a total change in caregiver's lives and this can cause a great deal of sadness and frustration. Men may channel this frustration inward, leading to isolation. Men may try to carry-on alone!

Signs of Danger
Many men have learned to shut down and "go inward" when they get out of their comfort zone in order to avoid painful situations. Opening up the gates of emotions during a crisis is downright scary for men. All of this can lead to isolation.

Here are some danger signs that you are becoming isolated:

•    Devoting so much of your time to the care of your loved one that you exclude all else

•    Stopping participation in activities that you once found enjoyable.

•    Being short tempered and increasingly frustrated, as you go it alone.

•    Poor appetite, losing weight, sleeping trouble, chronic fatigue and negative thoughts.

What Can You Do?

What we know is that isolation is not good for anybody. In order to make the best out of this situation, you are going to have to move away from these male tendencies.

Things to do:
  • Activities.
    • Go to church and become active spiritually for yourself and others.
    • Restart your old hobbies and activities.
    • Take a new class at the local vocational school or high school.  Photography, computer skills, woodworking and a whole lot more are available.  Interacting with others while sharing activities is refreshing and makes talking easier.

  • Contact organizations.
    • Check into family, friends, or community services that can help at home so you can go out and be with other people.
  • Talk with your health care provider.
    • Discuss how you are feeling and what you need.
    • Your health care provider is in a good position to help evaluate and suggest ways to help you.

Web Sites:

The following are some web sites to provide you with more information about caregiver isolation: (Please click to view Web sites)

Caregivers and Isolation:

Reducing Caregiver Isolation:


Blazina, C., Eddins, R., Burridge, A., & Settle, A. (2007, Winter). The relationship between masculinity ideology, loneliness, and seperation-individuation difficulties. The Journal of Men's Studies, 15(1), 101-109.

Thompson, N. (1997). Masculinity and loss. In D. Field, J. Hockey, & N. Small (Eds.), Death, gender and ethnicity (pp. 76-88). Routledge, Taylor & Francis.

Taylor, C., Lillis, C., LeMane, P., & Lynn, P. (2008). Fundamentals of nursing (6th ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. .

Developed in 2011 by Timothy Dymond, RN, BSN at the University of Toledo for Caring~Web©.
Last Updated: 6/23/16