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Caregivers Often Neglect Their Health

National Study Shows High Rates of Fatigue and Depression

Caregiver Woes Often Unrecognized

"I'm not sure that there's a terribly large amount of new stuff here. But this study certainly shows the overall impact to caregivers and has done an incredibly good job of pulling together the data," Eric J. Hall, CEO of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America tells WebMD.

"Caregivers are truly the heroes of our society," Hall says. "They do incredible work day in and day out, sometimes with little recognition or gratitude."

Although the study showed that more than half of caregivers forgo doctor visits because they're placing the care recipient's needs ahead of their own, Hall says it would have been stronger if it had emphasized caregivers' primary motivation: love.

"They're doing this out of an incredibly large heart," he says. "They end up sick because they are so absolutely committed by love to care for their loved one. It's outrageous that this has a negative effect on their health."

Relieving the Burden

"Now that we know more about caregivers, it's important to provide them with early interventions and prevention so they don't get to this fair or poor health status," Mach says.

"It's important for caregivers to know they aren't alone and that there are a lot of resources to help them shoulder the burden," Snelling says.

Evercare offers a "Solutions for Caregivers Program" that is available to 400,000 employees nationwide through employer insurance and also is available to uninsured individuals. Other companies offer similar plans that provide nursing and social-worker support to caregivers.

"Long-term care plans are obviously beneficial," says Hall. "But I suspect that only a rare minority of companies offer them to their employees."

For many individuals, he says, purchasing such plans may not be feasible. "There's a monthly fee that comes with that. Let's face it, not everyone can afford to pay for their own long-term care insurance."

Caregiver Burden to Increase

Because most of the patients needing care were functionally impaired, the study showed that up to three-quarters of caregivers had to assist with daily tasks such as providing medicine; helping loved ones get in and out of beds and chairs; dressing, feeding, and bathing them; assisting with toileting; and dealing with incontinence issues.

With the Baby Boomers nearing retirement, the burden on caregivers is expected to dramatically increase.

"Long-term care is a critical issue," Hall says. "As a nation, we need to be more sensitive to the needs of caregivers and those who have long-term illnesses. I don't know who will ultimately pay for it, but we need to pay more attention to the care side of things."

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