August 12, 2011
Your stress level is…
It appears that your family caregiving situation has become quite stressful and demanding, so much so that you may experience your own health repercussions. Reaching out for professional assistance for your loved one and yourself (including seeing a doctor for a check-up) seems advisable. You may also want to seek out a support group, especially if your loved one is disabled and/or suffering from any form of dementia or Alzheimer's disease.
If you're providing care for a spouse and you find that you are dealing with this situation alone and are feeling stressed, depressed or isolated, research shows that it is very important for you to reach out for help. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found that caregivers between the ages of 66 and 96, who were experiencing ongoing mental or emotional strain as a result of their spousal caregiving duties, had a 63% increased risk of dying over those people in the same age group who were not caring for someone.
If you find that the stress you feel is also causing you to experience feelings of guilt or resentment toward other family members or even the senior you are caring for you aren't alone. In a survey by Home Instead Senior Care, one quarter (25%) of family caregivers admit that they resent other family members who don't help out with senior caregiving responsibilities.
If you are experiencing feelings of depression, helplessness or isolation, experts recommend that you seek assistance or consider a new living arrangement for your aging loved one. Richard Schulz, Ph.D., caregiver stress expert at the University of Pittsburgh says, "Studies show that if depression is left untreated it can lead to other health problems and even very tragic outcomes, such as suicide and homicide." He warns, "It is important for a caregiver who is experiencing chronic stress as a result of his/her caregiving duties to get help."
In JAMA's Findings from the Caregiver Health Effect Study, the results were consistent with earlier research proving that caregivers who report caregiver strain have higher levels of depression and have worse health practices than non-caregivers. "There are ways to relieve the burden," adds Dr. Schulz. "Support groups offer lifelines out of isolation. Non-medical senior care, adult day care centers, friends/family, etc., can provide respite. Regular exercise lowers blood pressure and reduces stress and depression. Most of all: you [the caregiver] must look after yourself, since without your own good health, your aging loved one will suffer, too."
The following links may prove helpful to you and your family:
- Senior Housing: Nursing Homes, Not The Only Option
- Providing Care and Support for a Spouse
- Caring for a Loved One with Dementia or Alzheimer's Disease
- What is respite care?
- Care Givers Need Care Too: Tips on Managing Caregiver Stress
- What Benefits Does My Loved One Qualify For?
Visit the National Council on Aging Website
- Family Caregiver Support Program @ (800) 677-1116 or Locate one online
- Find a Local Alzheimer's Support Group Near You @ www.alz.org
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