Nearly one-third of adults living in northeast Pennsylvania are family caregivers who could be at risk for heart disease, diabetes, depression and various other physical and emotional maladies as a result of caregiver distress, a potentially dangerous condition brought on by the pressures of caring for a senior loved one.
Studies increasingly point to caregiving as a leading stressor for families. In fact, one U.S. study revealed that more than half (52.8%) of those caring for individuals with diseases including cancer or Alzheimer’s had scores indicating depression.*
In response to this growing issue, the local Home Instead Senior Care® office has launched a public awareness campaign – Family Caregiver Stress Relief at FamilyCaregiverStressRelief.com – to help family caregivers determine if they are at risk for distress and to minimize problems before they escalate.
Included in the program are two new tools: The Are You a Caregiver Quiz, which is designed to help a family caregiver self-identify and recognize the role of a caregiver, and the Family Caregiver Distress Assessment, adapted for the Home Instead Senior Care network by Dr. Peter Vitaliano of the University of Washington. The assessment allows caregivers to determine their risk for distress and resulting emotional and physical issues, including depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
"So many spouses and adult children are unaware of their potential risk of caregiver distress because they don’t see themselves as caregivers," said Robert Vielee, owner of the local Home Instead Senior Care office. "These new resources enable them to understand their role, the stresses they may face as a caregiver, and how that stress might lead to more serious health effects."
A recent Home Instead Senior Care study discovered that caregivers are prone to hiding their emotions and, as a result, their health suffers. Approximately 74 percent of caregivers who hide their feelings report fatigue, 53 percent report difficulty sleeping, 37 percent report depression, and 30 percent weight gain or loss.
Research shows that certain characteristics make family caregivers more vulnerable to caregiver distress, the top being:
· Gender: Women report more psychological distress than men (however, male caregivers have more negative physiological responses to caregiving, including higher blood sugar and insulin levels, poorer cholesterol and immune function, and obesity).
· Reluctance to ask for help: Caregivers who won’t ask for help are setting themselves up for the kind of exhaustion that can lead to distress.
· Chronic Illness: Caregivers who are already sick or have existing medical conditions, such as coronary disease, hypertension and cancer, are more vulnerable to additional negative health effects resulting from caregiver stress.
"It’s important for caregivers to understand that stress can impact one’s ability to care. If they don’t care for themselves, they may put their senior loved ones at risk. Whether it’s support groups, stress management techniques or respite help, caregivers need to realize the importance of managing their health, too," said Vielee.
For more information about the services of the Home Instead Senior Care office serving Lackawanna and Wyoming counties call 570-586-3135 or visit www.homeinstead.com/nepa.
* Papastavrou, E., Charalambous, A., Tsangari, H., & Karayiannis, G. (2012). The burdensome and depressive experience of caring: What cancer, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer's disease caregivers have in common; online at http://ktisis.cut.ac.cy/handle/10488/6053
ABOUT HOME INSTEAD SENIOR CARE
Founded in 1994 in Omaha, Nebraska by Lori and Paul Hogan, the Home Instead Senior Care network is the world's largest provider of non-medical in-home care services for seniors, with nearly 1,000 independently owned and operated franchises providing in excess of 45 million hours of care throughout the United States, Canada, Japan, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, Switzerland, Germany, South Korea, Finland, Austria, Italy, Puerto Rico, the Netherlands and Mexico. Local Home Instead Senior Care offices employ more than 65,000 CAREGivers worldwide who provide basic support services – assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), personal care, medication reminders, meal preparation, light housekeeping, errands, incidental transportation and shopping – which enable seniors to live safely and comfortably in their own homes for as long as possible. In addition, CAREGivers are trained in the network’s groundbreaking Alzheimer’s Disease or Other Dementias CARE: Changing Aging Through Research and Education Program to work with seniors who suffer from these conditions. This world class curriculum is also available free to family caregivers online or through local Home Instead Senior Care offices. At Home Instead Senior Care network, it’s relationship before task, while continuing to provide superior quality service that enhances the lives of seniors everywhere.