Nearly one-third of adults living in Minneapolis, MN are family caregivers to seniors and could be at risk for diabetes, depression, heart disease and various other conditions. This is a result of caregiver distress which is a potentially dangerous condition brought on by the pressures of caring for a senior loved one in their home. Studies indicate that caregiving is 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 signs of depression.
In response to this growing issue, Home Instead Senior Care® Minneapolis has launched a public awareness campaign – Family Caregiver Stress Relief. Over the coming months, we will offer tools to help you determine if you are in distress, resources to overcome the challenges associated with caregiver distress and advice on preventing and treating surrounding issues.
Are you a Caregiver?
More than 44 million individuals in the U.S. and Canada provide caregiver services to a senior in their home. Yet few people identify themselves as caregivers. Why? Because often the things that make you a caregiver just seem like natural things to do for a loved one such as light household cleaning and making meals. Failing to recognize yourself as a caregiver can cause you to fail to recognize the challenges and responsibilities placed on you, and to overlook the impact caregiving may be having on your health and welfare. Research conducted on behalf of the Home Instead Senior Care® network reveals that caregivers who hid their emotions are more likely to experience depression, difficulty sleeping, and fatigue. In addition, people who don’t self-identify as caregivers may not realize the magnitude of what they do. According to AARP, in 2009, family caregivers provided over $450 billion worth of caregiving services including home care.
What is Caregiver Distress?
Caregiver distress goes beyond the typical stressors of providing home care services for a senior. It actually impacts your health and manifests itself by increasing your risks of health complications. According to a 2010 study by Met Life Mature Market Institute, employees who provide senior care are more likely to report suffering from depression, diabetes, hypertension, or pulmonary disease. Research conducted by Dr. Peter Vitaliano, a Professor at the University of Washington, reveals that caregiver distress can manifest itself by increasing the risks for:
- High blood pressure
- Heart problems
- Increased risk of stroke
- Weight gain/loss and obesity
Caregiver distress can spill over into other areas of life, potentially creating relationship problems, exacerbating addictions and causing job issues. If you or a loved one are a caregiver and experiencing any of the above health conditions, consult your Minnesota health care provider.
What are the Risk Factors?
Since the average demographic of a caregiver is a 45-54 woman caring for both an aging loved one as well as their own family, it’s easy for a caregiver to assume that the above symptoms are a typical sign of aging or that they’re just “stressed out and busy”.
“Stressors include too many caregiver demands, not enough help caring for a loved one, feeling alone, financial problems, and work loss. These all can lead to caregiver distress and burden,” says Dr. Vitaliano. Some risk factors for developing caregiver distress include:
- Being a woman caregiver
- Suffering from a chronic illness
- Caring for a spouse with Alzheimer’s disease
- Having difficulty solving problems
- Lacking adequate resources
- Lacking coping skills
- Being uncomfortable asking for help
However, even as you lovingly provide support to a senior, you may have problems managing and balancing that support with your own busy life. The responsibilities can impact you physically, mentally and emotionally. And that could lead to the kind of distress that could result in serious health problems.
Are You in Caregiver Distress?
To identify the home care tasks that might make caregiving more challenging for you, and learn what you can do to address those challenges, take the Family Caregiver Distress Assessment, adapted for the Home Instead Senior Care network by Dr. Vitaliano. 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. Even if you learned from the quiz that you’re not providing care services to a senior, you probably know someone who is. Recommend this assessment or take it for them so that you can watch for warning signs.
Caring for an older adult can be a fulfilling experiences for any family caregiver. So many tasks bring pleasure as you give back to someone who may have given you so much. By identifying yourself as a caregiver and understanding the risk factors, you can decrease your changes of becoming distressed and, instead, enjoy the experience of caring for your Mom or Dad in their Minneapolis home.