In a phone survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2015, people acting as family caregivers to family members or friends revealed a disturbing truth about the role. Caregivers are less likely to seek out health care for themselves and are also less likely to have health care coverage. Though disturbing, the results of the study arent necessarily shocking, especially considering other studies have indicated that caregivers are at higher risk for many health problems, some of them quite serious.

How Does Caregiving Affect Health?

The Family Caregiver Alliance refers to family caregivers as a population at risk. Thats because a vast body of scientific research has demonstrated the following facts about how caregiving impacts health:

  • Between 40 and 70 percent of caregivers have symptoms of depression. Between 25 and 50 percent of them meet the criteria to be diagnosed with clinical depression.
  • Caregivers of people with dementia are at increased risk for depression.
  • Caregivers who are depressed are more likely to have coexisting mental health problems, like anxiety and substance abuse. 26 percent of caregivers report feeling emotional strain because of caregiving.
  • Caregivers with chronic stress have a greater chance of suffering cognitive decline.
  • 1 out of 10 caregivers says their physical health has gotten worse since becoming a caregiver.
  • Caregivers report twice as many chronic conditions, such as heart attack and cancer, than people who are not caregivers.
  • Caregivers have a decreased immune response, resulting in them getting illnesses more often than others do.
  • Caregivers are at an increased risk of heart disease.

Why Do Caregivers Neglect Their Health?

Despite the increased risk for serious illness, many caregivers fail to pay attention to their own health. They tend to skip regular medical appointments, like physicals and screenings. They also dont eat as well as they should and dont find the time to exercise. Why? Well, the reasons can differ for everyone, but some of the common causes of caregivers neglecting their health are:

  • Time: Between caring for their aging relative, working, taking care of kids, and other responsibilities, many caregivers dont have the additional time required to look after themselves.
  • Guilt: Taking the time to exercise or cook and eat a healthy meal can cause feelings of guilt because they take the caregiver away from the older adult. They may feel like the seniors needs are more important than their own.
  • Lack of Energy: Caregiving can be exhausting. By the time you have finished all the tasks on your list, you may not have the energy left to exercise or go to the doctor.

If you find yourself neglecting your health, its important that you find ways to change the situation. Ask friends and family members to take on some of your tasks, so that you can have time for yourself. If there isnt anyone available to help, consider contacting a home care agency to schedule a provider to spend some time each week with your older family member while you look after yourself.

If you or an aging loved one is considering caregivers in Coon Rapids, MN, and the surrounding areas, please contact the friendly staff at CareBuilders at Home Minnesota. Call today 612-260-2273.