Are you prepared to be a caregiver?


January 7, 2022

Evidence shows that most caregivers are ill-prepared for their role and provide care with little or no support.

Caregivers show higher levels of depression.

Depressed caregivers are more likely to have coexisting anxiety disorders, substance abuse or dependence, and chronic disease.

Research shows that female caregivers (who comprise about two-thirds of all unpaid caregivers) fare worse than their male counterparts, reporting higher levels of depressive and anxiety symptoms and lower levels of subjective well-being, life satisfaction, and physical health than male caregivers. According to one study, there is a dramatic increase in risk of mental health consequences among women who provide 36 or more hours per week of care to a spouse.

Caregivers suffer from high levels of stress and frustration.

Stressful caregiving situations may lead to harmful behaviors. As a response to increased stress, caregivers are shown to have increased alcohol and other substance use. Several studies have shown that caregivers use prescription and psychotropic drugs more than noncaregivers. Family caregivers are at greater risk for higher levels of hostility than noncaregivers. Spousal caregivers who are at risk of clinical depression and are caring for a spouse with significant cognitive impairment and/or physical care needs are more likely to engage in harmful behavior toward their loved one.

High rates of depressive symptoms and mental health problems among caregivers, compounded with the physical strain of caring for someone who cannot perform activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, grooming and other personal care activities, put many caregivers at serious risk for poor physical health outcomes. Indeed, the impact of providing care can lead to increased health care needs for the caregiver.

Caregivers are in worse health. 

About one in ten (11%) caregivers report caregiving has caused their physical health to get worse. The physical stress of caregiving can affect the physical health of the caregiver, especially when providing care for someone who cannot transfer him/herself out of bed, walk or bathe without assistance. Ten percent of primary caregivers report that they are physically strained. Caregivers have an increased risk of heart disease. Caregivers exhibit exaggerated cardiovascular responses to stressful conditions, which put them at greater risk than noncaregivers for the development of cardiovascular syndromes such as high blood pressure or heart disease.

Women who spend nine or more hours a week caring for an ill or disabled spouse increase their risk of heart disease two-fold.

Caregivers are less likely to engage in preventive health behaviors.

Caregivers’ self-care suffers because they lack the time and energy to prepare proper meals or to exercise. About six in ten caregivers in a national survey reported that their eating (63%) and exercising (58%) habits are worse than before.

Caregivers pay the ultimate price for providing care—increased mortality. Elderly spousal caregivers (aged 66-96) who experience caregiving-related stress have a 63% higher mortality rate than noncaregivers of the same age. In 2006, hospitalization of an elderly spouse was found to be associated with an increased risk of caregiver death.

Source: & Fact Sheet from Family Caregiver Alliance

We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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