Unpaid, informal carers play a vital role in supporting people with long-term conditions. Being a carer can be challenging and carers may need support but they frequently fail to access it. Compared to research investigating the experiences of female carers, research with male carers is underdeveloped. The available evidence suggests male and female carers have many experiences in common but some research suggests that compared to females, male carers are even less likely to access services.
The aim of this systematic review was therefore to synthesise research investigating adult male carers’ experiences of accessing formal and informal support focussing on the barriers and facilitators.
Nine health and social care electronic databases were searched (e.g. PubMed, PsychINFO, CINAHL Plus, Social Policy and Practice, Scopus). Seven studies (five qualitative and two quantitative) fitting the inclusion criteria were identified. All came from North America and most focussed on older carers caring for people with dementia. All seven studies described barriers to accessing support and three highlighted facilitators. Male carers felt committed to their role, seeing it as their responsibility but were often ambivalent about seeking help. Insufficient service information was frequently emphasised. Participants highlighted positive past experiences and professional or voluntary sector support in providing information and helping access services.
Research into male carers’ experiences in accessing support remains underdeveloped. Research that distinguishes between, for example, the experiences of spouses and sons and with direct comparisons between male and female carers is needed. Whether gender specific services would benefit male carers remains undetermined.