Stress, Depression Wear on Caregivers
> 9/25/2006 11:24:21 AM

New research reported today in USA Today has found that caregivers, a group whose health is typically much poorer than contemporaries not caring for a loved one, endure stress and health deterioration in relation to the amount and intensity of the care they give. This burden, usually above and beyond work duties and nuclear family obligations, leads to high levels of depression, anxiety and stress. In describing her own experiences, one caregiver highlights how health can decline so rapidly:

"Sometimes you didn't have time to take a shower. You didn't eat properly because you're so busy preparing their food and tending to them. You miss doctor's appointments because you can't get somebody to stay with him or you can't (bring) him," [Barbara Redmond, 68, said of caring for her husband for 2 1/2 years before his death.]

The added pressures and strain often force caregivers to forgo their own care, as with Ms. Redmond, who also described losing between 95 and 110 pounds during her experience with her husband.

With the population aging, The National Alliance for Caregiving sees the potential for an impending health crisis. Will there be enough caregivers to help the larger proportion of the population that needs care? How will we handle the increased poor health on the part of these new caregivers? These are both legitimate questions without any easy answers.

As with other areas of our changing health care system, preventative care provides one answer to stopping a caregiver crisis before it gets out of control. Especially with the mental health problems facing these carers, early identification and treatment are important as they can help resolve an issue before it becomes a more costly and unavoidable physical ailment.

USA Today's article mentions a potential toll-free number for caregivers to call and get information or help. But it seems like the web would be a logical place to provide these types of services as well. At this time, many caregivers are older themselves, and so may not be as comfortable with using the web or a computer. These trends are changing ever more rapidly though, and there is a real opportunity for web based preventative options to help ease stress and depression for many caregivers.


I think it happens all too often that people forget the small truth that as a caregiver you need to take care of yourself in order to be any use to someone else! As a whole, I have noticed that many family caregivers cannot put aside strong feelings associated with caregiving, which can run the gamut from devotion to guilt, to see the importance of avoiding the problem of caregiver burnout. And although it is noble to place someone else’s needs above yours, it is not always feasible or right. In parent-child relationships, the adult children will often feel that they must look after the parent—to return the favor of having been raised by them—even they are unqualified or ill-equipped to do so. This situation is often worse when one senior is caring for their spouse, such as the case you cited in the USA Today article. The reality is that caregiving situations—just like raising a child—requires a village. If you want to provide good long-term care then you need to get hooked in with family, friends and outside resources. A person can be the primary caregiver and still not be there every minute of the day. The only way to be effective is to get hooked in with caregiving networks (as you mentioned which are online in some nascent form) and to spread out the caregiving responsibilities. I think though we as a country still have a long way to go in providing support to our family caregivers in very real way so no one falls through the cracks.
Posted by: Lara Belonogoff 4/25/2007 12:48:22 PM

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy