HEALTH

Meet a male caregiver in Utah who is caring for his third parent

Nov 3, 2023, 7:00 AM | Updated: 9:42 am

Utahn Greg Mills is pictured with one of the three parents for whom he has acted as a male caregive...

Greg Mills is pictured with one of the three parents for whom he has acted as a male caregiver. (Greg Mills)

(Greg Mills)

SALT LAKE CITY — Greg Mills is a male caregiver in Utah, and he’s part of a growing demographic. According to some of the most recent information from the AARP, he’s one of the 18.7 million male caregivers across the United States.

In 2015, about 16 million men in America cared for aging parents and others. That number went up to 18.7 million in 2020.

“This is my third round,” he told KSL NewsRadio. “First we had my wife’s father. He had Lou Gehrig’s disease. We had to convert our bedroom for him to move in.

“That’s when I found that I was actually capable of doing things I didn’t think I would be capable of, like helping with the bathroom and stuff like that.,” Mills said.

His own father later moved into his basement after being diagnosed with leukemia.

“Then we found out my mom had dementia,” Mills continued. “I took her to her physician, and they did the clock test.”

Doctors use the clock test to screen for early dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. They ask patients to draw a clock, and people with dementia will draw the numbers backward or all on one side, even though they think it looks just like the clock on the wall.

Employment and the male caregiver

“When people start caretaking, they think this is no big deal,” Mills explained, “but it consumes your whole life. Your feelings and your thoughts. It becomes your life.”

He said he’d been blessed in recent times to have a daughter live with him. She worked remotely, so someone was always at home with his mother.

“Now she’s changing jobs and will be working outside the house,” Mills said. “Starting the first of the year, we don’t have anybody here. I’m trying to figure out if my wife retires, is there some type of government or state assistance that will help out? We don’t need much.”

Whether it’s a male or female caregiver, the stress of caring for an aging parent can be overwhelming.

“I work for a major corporation, and they’re all about taking care of their people,” Mills said. “When this came on with my mom, I started getting bad anxiety. I would throw up before going to work. I was just a mess.

“Finally, I told my boss I need to be doing just this job (because it’s low-key) until I can get my anxiety taken care of. He basically told me if I couldn’t handle the job, maybe I ought to find new employment.”

Mills was eventually able to get into a different department, and the support there was much better.

He described what he went through this way: “The depression comes in because of everything you’re going through and your mom’s going through.”

Support for male and female caregivers

“I just started going to a group for support,” Mills said, “and I’ve noticed that most of the caretakers are male instead of female. I was surprised by that, I don’t know why that is.”

Salt Lake County Aging and Adult Services offers the support group that Mills attends.

He said he was amazed by the group.

“Unbelievable! I had four major questions answered that I was struggling with. I was like, ‘Why did I not come to this before?'”

Mills said he felt relieved by the things he learned at the support group. He has a better understanding of why his mother does what she does.

Does this caretaker ever feel resentment because he has to give up so much to care for the people he loves?

“As I look back on the people I’ve cared for,” Mills answered, “No, but when you’re in the midst of it, yes. You lose out on your personal time. People at work ask why I don’t have anyone over for a barbecue, and they just don’t understand the time it takes. There is everything mom needs, and then my stuff. I have time to decompress for a minute, and then it’s back to work.

Keep reading: Across the U.S. and in Utah, dementia on the rise in adults

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Meet a male caregiver in Utah who is caring for his third parent