social loss

What if your life was centralized around the plans and desires of another person? If every plan you made, every vacation you took was based upon someone else’s wishes in conjunction with your own and what if that person was to die? What would you do? Could you survive emotionally as well as physically?

These questions are asked about 800,000 time a year to the bereaved spouses who have just lost a loved one, it happens to people of all ages but some of the people it hits hardest are the elderly. In the social aspect of life women are superior they make most of the social contacts while engaged in the bonds of marriage. “The annual incidence of spousal loss through death has been estimated to be 1.6% for elderly men and 3.0% for elderly women “ (Murrell SA, Himmelfarb S 1989). It is the 1.6% of the aged that is hit hardest by the loss of a spouse. A study by Harris (1993) noted four types of male caregivers to women afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease; The Worker, The Labor of Love, Sense of Duty, At the Crossroads. Although these women were not dead they were unable to interact in the social forum. This study depicted the lives of these men as one’s of servitude and compassion to their wives but an empty and lonely social life. The first group that was examined was “The Worker”. “ This group oriented to their new caregiver role by modeling the role after their work role, so that caregiving became for them a new work identity. Instead of being an accountant or salesman they are now a caregiver”. These men change their lives in order to care for their wives. This task to them is not a question of why but one of how. Some of the husbands in this group set up mini offices in their homes in order to keep track of medical expenses and set up schedules for caring for their wives. The man that was interviewed for this study had set up an office in his house. He was a self made man who’s only mind set in life was one of business and, to him, it only made sense to treat this responsibility as a job.

Mr. H is the primary care giver of his wife and at present he receives no outside services….
I am the laundress, cook shopper, podiatrist I keep my phone right here on my desk
and daily keep after Medicare, Blue Cross to make sure they follow up.

He has been married to his wife for 54 years and he has only one child who left home. Their contact with their daughter is usually by phone and is infrequent. Mr. H is only one of the four perspectives of the socially isolated elderly male caregiver.

When people marry they share a love that lasts each of them their entire lifetime. For the men who fit into the “ Labor of love “ criteria their acts are not driven by responsibility but are done as expressions of the love they feel for their spouse. “Each (of these men) looked at his wife now and saw her as she was when he married her”(Harris, 1993). Even though these men love their wives dearly they are still susceptible to stress; this stress can at times be debilitating. The men in each model require a little support from outside services. Mr. N, who has been married to his wife for fifty years, fit into the category of the “Labor of Love” and has become sensitive to the needs of his wife and is willing to do anything for her, but at times he needs time for himself. He calls in a nurse to look after his wife he says that he does this when he is “about to break”. These outside resources are almost a necessity in today’s fast paced world. The demands placed upon the individual are massive almost too much to handle.

In this study most of the men fell into the group called the “ Sense of Duty “. For these men the women the loved are a responsibility it is not as if they don’t care for their wives it in