Caregivers Face Increased Health Risks Compared With Noncaregivers
In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a survey of more than 100,000 people regarding their personal health. According to Jacob Bentley, associate professor of clinical psychology at Seattle Pacific University and a co-author of the study, caregivers had a 26% higher risk of lacking healthcare coverage compared with those who aren’t caregivers. They also had a significantly higher risk (59%) of failing to go to the doctor or obtaining a needed health service due to cost, the AARP’s Peter Urban noted.
The study, recently published in the journal Rehabilitation Psychology, noted that many caregivers also are at risk of developing a depressive disorder, and many have experienced physical, mental, or emotional issues that have negatively affected their daily lives.
Given all of this, it’s particularly interesting that 79% of respondents also claimed they didn’t need support services. I find this information to be somewhat devastating. Caregivers need support, but why can’t they admit it?
Is it denial or something else?
Does the average caregiver have a Wonder Woman or Superman complex, believing themselves to be so physically and mentally strong that they can bypass support? The reality is that caregivers are unable to leap health concerns in a single bound. Major depression is an issue, and the high level of stress accompanying caregiving also creates health problems.
According to the National Center on Caregiving, caregivers suffer from higher rates of physical disorders, and have an increased risk of contracting serious illnesses. Obesity and chronic pain also plague caregivers. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and arthritis are twice as likely to affect caregivers than noncaregivers.
These numbers are concerning, especially given that caregivers are denying the need for support and fail to present to a health professional for regular checkups.
Caregivers aren’t in denial
Personally, I don’t believe that most caregivers are in denial of their own personal health. What they are is busy. Caregiving is a challenge, and Alzheimer’s disease especially demands constant attention as it ties caregivers down.
Caregivers are so accustomed to providing for a loved one — most often on their own — that the concept of personal care doesn’t register. Seeing a doctor is something they’ll do later. It’s not that caregivers fail to understand the importance of getting a physical or investigating uncomfortable physical or mental symptoms. They make a choice to place their needs on hold to attend to the health and welfare of their loved ones.
Time off from caregiving is rare, even to see a physician. However, caregivers must find a way to make a change for their own good health. If not, the unhealthy numbers will catch up with them.
Caregivers: Do it for you. Do it for your loved one, too. Don’t allow your dedication to caregiving to kill you. Caregiving dedication should drive you to care for yourself so that you can continue caring for the ones you love.
What it takes
Seeing a doctor at least once a year will help caregivers to stay abreast of health concerns. It is crucial that you keep watch of your numbers, including high blood pressure, blood glucose, etc.
Please speak with a health professional about the following tests, screens, and other procedures:
- Annual physical
- Colonoscopy and other cancer screenings
- Blood pressure reading
- Blood glucose test
- Eye exam
- Bone density scan
- Dental checkup
- Flu vaccine
In addition to your physical health, see a professional for mental health concerns, too.
Give yourself the attention you need and deserve. Don’t talk yourself out of good health because you can’t get away. Call a trusted friend or family member to sit with your loved one or look into respite care. We’re only talking about a short time away from home. Call the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association for suggestions about moving forward with help. Please take advantage of the support that’s available to you.
Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.