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Caregivers need care, too

Created date

March 1st, 2016

With age comes wisdom. But regardless of how much wisdom you’ve gained or how much life experience you’ve had, little can prepare you for the enormous stress of being a primary caregiver for someone with a chronic, progressive, or terminal disease. Research shows that seniors are far more resilient than previously believed, but caregiver burdens can challenge even the strongest constitution. 

For example, surveys show that the majority of Alzheimer’s disease caregivers rate their stress levels as high or very high. Almost half suffer from depression or other psychological distress. About 16% of caregivers report worsening health since taking on caregiver duties. In 2014, this worsening health translated to about $10 billion in additional health care costs incurred by caregivers. Along with the toll on their health, caregivers often face financial difficulties and family conflicts.

We, as a society, need our caregivers to be healthy. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that in 2014 alone, caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related illnesses provided about 18 billion hours of unpaid care with an estimated value of over $217 billion.

Assistance at hand 

Some caregivers think they can shoulder the burden with little assistance, but getting help and support is absolutely crucial. Attending a formal support group may not be feasible for many people, but technology affords many alternatives. Regardless of whether or not your loved one has a dementia-related illness, the Alzheimer’s Association is a very valuable resource. There are, after all, many commonalities faced by caregivers regardless of the type of disease process they are dealing with. Their website offers message boards, training videos, and educational materials pertaining to practically every aspect of caregiving, tools for keeping track of duties and activities, and 24-hour live support. Possibly one of the most useful tools is the customizable Care Team Calendar, which allows you to specify exactly what you need help with, whether it’s running errands or having someone sit with your loved one while you go to a doctor’s appointment. 

If you are a caregiver, please see your health care provider regularly. Feeling your best can help you be fully present for your loved one and sustain you through the many challenges and sacrifices that often accompany this most important and rewarding commitment.