It’s helpful to know what health checks there are, how we can tackle some of the day-to-day caring such as shaving, and how being ‘cared-for’ might impact on mental health as a man. This could include when caring for our son, husband, dad or a male friend.
What are some men’s health issues?
It might be helpful to be aware of some of the ‘biggies’ when it comes to male health.
Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of male deaths in the UK? Men are also more likely to get lung cancer than women and research has shown that Parkinson’s disease is more common amongst men.
Biologically speaking, causes of these can stem from a range of factors. Such as smoking, having high cholesterol or diabetes. But we know that this is not an isolated issue on its own - our physical health is intertwined with our mental health. The way we nurture our mental health can, to a great extent, lead to healthier lifestyle choices. And an improvement in our overall quality of life.
Breaking the negative stigma around traditional masculinity is a good first step. If we reject the outdated idea of men being strong, confident and emotionally disconnected, perhaps we would encourage more men to speak up about their mental health.
Men’s health at 50
As we are living longer, regular health checks are useful to keep on top of. The NHS provides free health checks to those of us who are 40-74 years of age. If you or the person you care for have not yet been invited by your GP for one, simply contact your GP to see if you can arrange one.
Just like women have screenings for breast and cervical cancer, the NHS also provides screening for Bowel Cancer and Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAAs), the two leading causes of death in older men. If we are registered to our GP, we will be able to have a Bowel cancer screening if we are between 60-74. And 65 for AAA screenings.
What is the male menopause?
Many of us may not know that there is a menopause equivalent for men - the male menopause. Informally known as ‘andropause’.
Andropause is a hormonal change in men which occurs when a man reaches his late 40s. It includes feelings of depression, erectile dysfunction and many other physical and emotional symptoms.
If we think we or the person we care for is going through this, it’s worth contacting our GP to find out how we can cope with the male menopause - and in some instances, we may be offered a blood test for further health checks.
Emasculation and Mental Health
A common theme that came up was around dealing with feelings of emasculation and feeling like a “failure as a man”. Emasculation, in the caring world, can branch out two ways.
On the one hand, the person we care for may feel emasculated due to physical changes caused by such illnesses, such as losing muscle size, body hair or constantly feeling fatigued. The difference in physical appearance can massively affect how we view ourselves against others.
“My son’s self-esteem and frustration at not being like other males his age is huge”
On the other hand, the person we care for can also feel emasculated because of their constant dependency on someone else - their lack of control to do the things they want to or live a ‘normal’ life.
“He is a young male in touch with all his ‘sides’ but I can see the way his illness impacts his male drive, it’s very hard for him. It easily makes him feel inadequate”.
“He desperately would love to drive”
Watching the person we care for go through this can take a toll on ourselves too. There will be times when we want to remind the person we care for that they are perfect just the way they are. And as positive as we can be, we should acknowledge the effects this has on our own mental health, and remind ourselves that we are doing the best that we can. And that is what matters.
It’s also really important not to invalidate their feelings, if they’re sharing how they feel. It may feel natural to respond with how awesome they are, but people also need to feel they have been heard.
“Sometimes it’s OK to say “yes, it’s all crap, you’re allowed to feel furious” - I love you”
Looking after mental health
It’s helpful to remind ourselves that emotions are normal, and everyone feels - at times more than others. What we can do is try to recognise how powerful our mind is. The way we structure our thoughts massively influences the actions we take in our lives. Including in our caring roles.
Here are three useful apps that can help us momentarily step away from caring to focus on our mental wellbeing. They’re available on both iPhones and Androids:
Headspace - For if we want to work towards a more tranquil mental state. We can receive 10 free meditation sessions. And if we find that this has helped, we can then subscribe to the app for less than £5 a month.
Calm - This is similar to Headspace but with a touch of relaxing music. We can also pick specific goals we want to achieve such as improving focus.
Happify - The funnest app of the bunch. With science based games incorporated, Happify focuses more on the happy thoughts as opposed to explaining reasons behind our negative thoughts.
We have also created a blog on five great organisations that provide support for both men’s physical and mental wellbeing that we may want to consider joining.
GPs that specialise in Men’s Health Clinics
As men are less likely to seek medical support than women, GPs and clinics that specialise in men’s health can help remove some social stigmas of sensitive issues such as prostate concerns.
“We're proud to sport an injury on the playing field but we don't want to talk about anything that resembles difficult problems.” - Dr Hilary Jones
Encouraging more men to talk about their health also starts with making sure that services are easily accessible for men, when they need it. Here are a few we can look into:
Walk-in Clinic - Men’s Health. They provide medical services to men of all ages, with male doctors available.
My Specialist GP. Dr Peter Petrie offers solutions not typically available on the NHS.
The Men’s Health Clinic. They specialise in Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT).
St Peters Medical Centre (Harrow). They offer a range of clinics and services to support men’s health.
Practical tips on caring for a man
Unpaid carers in the Mobilise community have also opened up about the practical tips on caring for a man. Take a look at some of them - have you considered any of these?
1. Shaving someone else is not easy!
If you are wet shaving, you may find this challenging. If the person you care for likes to be clean shaven consider using an electric shaver. Alternatively, if they are happy with some facial hair you could consider using a beard trimmer. This is considerably easier to use.
If you’re set on a wet shave have a watch of this video for some tips.
2. Use shower wipes
One carer suggested shower wipes for times when real showers can be challenging. These are wipes that specifically remove sweat odor and are safe to use on all areas of the body. We can find some on Amazon or at our local supermarket - also known as fully body wipes.
3. Clipping nails
There are many safe, easy-grip nail clippers out there to have a look at, that can make our lives that little bit easier.
4. Organisation system for clothes and underwear
Another carer’s useful tip is to have individual storage boxes that separate underwear, socks, trousers or tops, to avoid confusion. This neat way of organising clothes is a great way to encourage the person we care for to be a bit more independent in the morning (or at night).
Do you know someone who may find this blog useful? Please do share with them. And if you yourself have some practical tips, let us know what we’ve missed.
We also have free support calls which are welcome to everyone including non-binary identities. This includes having a chat with our coaches if we need a listening ear or help organising our thoughts.
And don't forget to join the Mobilise community to share some of your stories and connect with other unpaid carers.