Caring for elderly loved ones can result in emotional and financial stress for caregivers.
More and more family members are providing medical assistance and other types of services to their elderly loved ones, and the loving effort is taking a toll on the health and financial well-being of the provider, according to a Reuters story.
It has been estimated that some 14.7 million family members are providing unpaid assistance to older adults, who are still living in the communities instead of health-care centers and nursing homes. This type of assistance includes scheduling and making sure loved ones are seen by their physicians, managing the frequency of taking their prescribed medications, changing bandages on wounds, and giving injections. Quite often the provider assists the elderly with eating, bathing and getting dressed.
Jennifer Wolff, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, is the leader of a study that looked at surveys from 1,739 caregivers to 1,171 elderly adults, and analyzed the date with regard to how much assistance was being provided. The survey numbers show about 6.5 million caregivers provide substantial assistance with medical needs of their loved ones, another 4.4 million provide at least some help, and 3.8 million in the survey did not provide assistance at all.
Comparing the substantial assistance group to those who didn’t provide any support, the researchers found the substantial caregivers were 79 percent more likely to have their own emotional problems, and twice as likely to experience either physical or financial issues, or both, than their counterparts. They were also five times more likely to miss out on an important activity and three time more likely to suffer from lost productivity at their jobs.
The authors recognized the study could not prove the issues suffered by the caregivers were a direct result of the caregiving, but the research falls in line with mounting evidence from earlier studies finding similar results.
Experts recommend seeking out other means of support to take the strain off of the caregivers whenever possible, such as social workers and even neighbors and other family members, and say you don’t need to try to go it alone. Sometimes even the smallest assistance can provide a caregiver with stress relief and a chance to reset.
The authors published their findings in JAMA Internal Medicine.