Caregivers aren’t giving themselves care

Created date

March 23rd, 2020
Hands reach out to hold those of another person, who is sitting in a wheelchair.

Being a caregiver for a loved one is an extremely tough job, so caregivers need to be in their best health to provide these necessary services.  But a recent study published by the American Psychological Association in the journal Rehabilitation Psychology shows that caregivers are not caring for themselves.

More than 43 million adults in the U.S. function as caregivers each year, according to the latest data from AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving. According to Jacob Bentley, Ph.D., of Seattle Pacific University and coauthor of the study, if informal caregivers were replaced with home health aides, it would cost the U.S. healthcare system about $600 billion in wages alone.

In this study, researchers analyzed data from over 24,000 participants in the 2015 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System study. They focused on people who had provided regular care for a family member or friend with a health problem or disability, not professional caregivers. 

The impact

They found that caregivers had a 59% higher risk for not seeking medical care or necessary health services for themselves. The main reason cited was cost. Previous research has shown that caregivers’ duties interfere with their ability to be employed or advance their careers due to the flexibility needed for their schedules. 

In addition, about one-fourth of the caregivers reported they had been diagnosed with depression, which represented a 36% higher risk than for noncaregivers, and one-third said they had experienced at least one limitation to their everyday activities because of a physical or mental problem. Despite this, most respondents said they did not need services like support groups or counseling. 

Researchers say their findings highlight the need for more research into how to provide support for caregivers so they can care for themselves. It may also help serve as evidence for policymakers to focus on developing ways to help reduce financial burdens and gaps in health care for caregivers.