How Caregiving May Affect You
Aging Matters

Close to twenty percent of caregivers are spouses to recipients over the age of 80. That's quite a surprise to see partners that age gives care, but they do, says a University of Washington study. The caregiver may be in need of help as well because many times, providing care to a loved one can impact a family member's health in numerous ways.

The same study, along with several others, reveals that family members are giving care report high incidences of chronic illnesses. The most common:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Arthritis

Plus, the pressure among spousal care increases the risk of strokes by twenty-three percent, especially for men. An Indiana University-Purdue University - discovered that a partner with a serious illness could boost the couple's risk of divorce when compared to a healthy couple. The research confirms that being a caregiver for a partner may affect physical and emotional strain on the two, as well as the relationship. The researchers suggest that the people involved in the care relationship to take these proactive measures to negate damaging outcomes.

Spousal Caregiver Tips

  • Don't ignore your health care needs. Take the desirable steps to ensure your top physical and mental status. Be honest with yourself and if you begin to feel sick, see a doctor.
  • Learn your capabilities and know what you can handle. As a spouse, you cannot do everything alone. You need help, so ask for it. And if you can afford respite care, hire a professional home caregiver agency. It's important to know your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Go to the web to research the needs of the spouse. The Internet is the place to start when seeking information and education about health conditions and how to care for them.
  • Create a team of medical professionals to assist. It's wise to build a support team that includes doctors, nurses, home care agencies, local community support, and professional caregivers.
  • It's one thing to ask, but you must accept it. Reach out to friends and family for the assistance you require.
  • Join a caregiver support group. Find people who experience the same stresses and hardships and create a network that helps you deal with caregiving.
  • Take the proactive steps to learn about chronic health conditions. Knowing more about them can significantly improve how well you care for them. Never take on more than you can manage without getting assistance. Your health is important also, and if you need care, it is vital that you get it.

According to a report by AARP and United Hospital Fund, the causes of why spousal caregivers receive less support is unknown. Perhaps, partners choose to do it alone, or they feel they can do it themselves and are unaware of the stress. Sometimes, it's a financial issue. But in my estimation, it could be about the fear of losing independence.

Carol Marak, aging alone advocate, columnist, speaker and editor at Seniorcare.com. A former family caregiver, She earned a Fundamentals of Gerontology Certificate from the USC Davis School of Gerontology and writes about personal concerns while growing older.



Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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