Breaking News
September 21, 2018 - CHMP grants positive opinion for VENCLYXTO plus rituximab for treating relapsed/refractory CLL
September 21, 2018 - Study offers solid link between visceral organs and brain’s reward, motivation system
September 21, 2018 - First U.S. patient treated with innovative gene therapy at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute
September 21, 2018 - Choroidal Detachment – The American Society of Retina Specialists
September 21, 2018 - Discovery of a key protein involved in the development of autism
September 21, 2018 - Henry Ford Health System receives $600k grant to study genetic makeup of gliomas
September 21, 2018 - Arthritis common in individuals with varying degrees of depression, finds study
September 21, 2018 - New research suggests link between PFAS chemicals and hyperthyroidism in pet cats
September 21, 2018 - Multi-year study data shows impact of new soft contact lens to slow myopia progression in children
September 21, 2018 - Neuroscientists identify circuit for brain’s statistical inference about motion
September 21, 2018 - MILabs’ VECTor6 system wins Commercial Innovation Award at WMIC 2018
September 21, 2018 - Scientists find wild African monkeys infected with bacterium that causes syphilis, yaws in humans
September 21, 2018 - 2006 to 2015 Saw Increase in Severe Maternal Morbidity
September 21, 2018 - Similar changes in the brains of patients with ADHD and emotional instability
September 21, 2018 - Cobalt mining in DR Congo takes a high toll on both creuseurs and environment
September 21, 2018 - Eating fatty fish during pregnancy may boost unborn child’s brain development
September 21, 2018 - Study reveals promising new drug candidate to treat acute renal failure
September 21, 2018 - Neural signal that urges to eat overpowers the one that says to stop
September 21, 2018 - Scientists achieve breakthrough in accelerated diagnosis of multi-resistant hospital pathogens
September 21, 2018 - Researchers simulate how different breast tissues respond to heat from MRIs
September 21, 2018 - Despite red flags at surgery centers, overseers award gold seals
September 21, 2018 - Zapping Airway Nerves May Help COPD Patients Breathe
September 21, 2018 - Researchers find answers as to why some people are at risk of gout
September 21, 2018 - Stars of Stanford Medicine: Genetic counseling and compassion
September 21, 2018 - Researchers use reinforcement learning to train gliders to soar like birds
September 21, 2018 - New federally-funded research project could lead to treatments that extend human lifespan
September 21, 2018 - Health insurance ads have shifted over time due to health plans offered via ACA
September 21, 2018 - Use of transcranial electrical stimulation to bolster creativity has far-reaching implications
September 21, 2018 - Scientists find way to boost efficacy of powerful antimalarial drug with anti-cancer medicines
September 21, 2018 - Weighing the risks and benefits of drug tapering—two patients, two perspectives
September 21, 2018 - The “exposome” revealed: a barrage of bacteria, chemicals, microscopic animals and more
September 21, 2018 - Top three immune boosting recommendations to ward off freshers’ flu
September 21, 2018 - Young children’s oral microbiota could serve as early indicator for obesity
September 21, 2018 - Older individuals with multiple sclerosis report higher quality of life than younger counterparts
September 21, 2018 - LineaRx signs agreement with Takis/Evvivax to develop linear-DNA based anti-cancer vaccines
September 21, 2018 - AbbVie Presents Upadacitinib Longer-Term (32-Week) and Patient-Reported Outcomes Data from Phase 2b Atopic Dermatitis Study at 27th European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV) Congress
September 21, 2018 - Alzheimer’s drug may stop disease if used before symptoms develop
September 21, 2018 - Human skeletal stem cell can generate cartilage, bone
September 21, 2018 - UK and European research collaborations receive vote of confidence by three major cancer charities
September 21, 2018 - Microbiota in the intestines and cell stress cause colon cancer
September 20, 2018 - Arizona EMTs have 39% higher risk for suicide than general public
September 20, 2018 - Driving and older adults: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia
September 20, 2018 - Brain region for stress control is enlarged in people with depression, finds study
September 20, 2018 - Researchers test autobiographical memory for early Alzheimer’s detection
September 20, 2018 - Organizations join forces to help teens with severe mental health challenges | News Center
September 20, 2018 - Neurons in the human brain can encode numerical information
September 20, 2018 - Potential drugs to treat neurodegenerative diseases garner $3 million grant
September 20, 2018 - Processing speed important to higher order cognitive function in multiple sclerosis patients
September 20, 2018 - Helping a patient survive a hurricane
September 20, 2018 - Tafamidis Treats Transthyretin Amyloid Cardiomyopathy
September 20, 2018 - Low academic achievement can lead to drug abuse decades later, research finds
September 20, 2018 - Study identifies stem cell that gives rise to new bone, cartilage in humans | News Center
September 20, 2018 - Celltrion and Emory University sign ‘Incubation’ agreement to develop new drug candidates for atherosclerosis
September 20, 2018 - TGen and PNOC take part in launch of NIH-supported Kids First Data Resource Portal
September 20, 2018 - Could Household Cleaners Make Your Kid Fat?
September 20, 2018 - Addiction nonprofit makes searching for services simple
September 20, 2018 - We are bombarded by thousands of diverse species and chemicals | News Center
September 20, 2018 - Experts to Present Prostate Cancer Advances at Patient Summit
September 20, 2018 - Alector announces initiation of Phase 1 trial of AL001 for treating frontotemporal dementia
September 20, 2018 - Pfizer’s 20vPnC vaccine receives Breakthrough Therapy designation from FDA
September 20, 2018 - Study could allow doctors to screen patients at risk from Aspergillus
September 20, 2018 - Emergex signs MoU with Brazil’s Fiocruz for development of viral vaccines
September 20, 2018 - The ‘real you’ is a myth – we constantly create false memories to achieve the identity we want
September 20, 2018 - Researchers describe cell mechanism that optimizes proteins production in stressful situations
September 20, 2018 - Cell Medica successfully doses first patient with CMD-501 targeting pediatric neuroblastoma
September 20, 2018 - Sesen Bio to present its three-month Phase 3 VISTA Trial data at Global Congress
September 20, 2018 - Senators unveil legislation to protect patients against surprise medical bills
September 20, 2018 - Study provides insights into development of special-purpose cosmetic products
September 20, 2018 - Research shows enlarged genotype-phenotype correlation for three-base pair deletion in NF1
September 20, 2018 - 91% of people around the world believe medical research will result in dementia cure
September 20, 2018 - DePuy Synthes introduces CONCORDE LIFT Expandable Interbody Device at EUROSPINE 2018
September 20, 2018 - Manx Telecom unveils MT clearSound that improves clarity of mobile phone calls
September 20, 2018 - Mediterranean-style diet appears to reduce stroke risk in women
September 20, 2018 - AbbVie Announces Patient-Reported Outcomes Data from Three Pivotal Phase 3 Studies of Risankizumab, Showing Significant Improvements in Health-Related Quality of Life for Patients with Psoriasis
September 20, 2018 - Characterization of pregnancy microbiome reveals variations in bacterial diversity
September 20, 2018 - New guidance for treatment of bone loss in hematologic stem cell transplant Recipients
September 20, 2018 - Experts to present research on prevention, management of dysphagia at international conference
September 20, 2018 - New study focuses on two-way gene switches controlling gene activity
September 20, 2018 - Zika virus could become a weapon against brain cancer
September 20, 2018 - Home-based video game exercises can reduce chronic low back pain in older people, study finds
Coping with Caregiving | NIH News in Health

Coping with Caregiving | NIH News in Health

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

Special Issue: Seniors

Print this issue

Take Care of Yourself While Caring for Others

It can be a labor of love, and sometimes a job of necessity. Millions of Americans provide unpaid care for someone with a serious health condition each year. These often-unsung heroes provide hours of assistance to others. Yet the stress and strain of caregiving can take a toll on their own health. NIH-funded researchers are working to understand the risks these caregivers face. And scientists are seeking better ways to protect caregivers’ health.

Many of us will end up becoming or needing a caregiver at some point in our lives. Chances are we’ll be helping out older family members who can’t fully care for themselves. Caregiving responsibilities can include everyday tasks, such as helping with meals, schedules, and bathing and dressing. It can also involve managing medicines, doctor visits, health insurance, and money. Caregivers often give emotional support as well.

People who provide unpaid care for an elderly, ill, or disabled family member or friend in the home are called informal caregivers. Most are middle-aged. Roughly two-thirds are women. Nearly half of informal caregivers assist someone who’s age 75 or older. As the elderly population continues to grow nationwide, so will the need for informal caregivers.

Studies have shown that some people can thrive when caring for others. Caregiving may help to strengthen connections to a loved one. Some find joy, fulfillment, and a sense of being appreciated in looking after others. But for many, the strain of caregiving can become overwhelming. Friends and family often take on the caregiving role without any training. They’re expected to meet many complex demands without much help. Many caregivers hold down a full-time job and may also have children or others to care for.

“With all of its rewards, there is a substantial cost to caregiving—financially, physically, and emotionally,” says Dr. Richard J. Hodes, director of NIH’s National Institute on Aging. “One important insight from our research is that because of the stress and time demands placed on caregivers, they are less likely to find time to address their own health problems.”

Informal caregivers, for example, may be less likely to fill a needed prescription for themselves or get a screening test for breast cancer. “Caregivers also tend to report lower levels of physical activity, poorer nutrition, and poorer sleep or sleep disturbance,” says Dr. Erin Kent, an NIH expert on cancer caregiving.

Studies have linked informal caregiving to a variety of long-term health problems. Caregivers are more likely to have heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and excess weight. Caregivers are also at risk for depression or anxiety. And they’re more likely to have problems with memory and paying attention.

“Caregivers may even suffer from physical health problems related to caregiving tasks, such as back or muscle injuries from lifting people,” Kent adds.

Caregivers may face different challenges and risks depending on the health of the person they’re caring for. Taking care of loved ones with cancer or dementia can be especially demanding. Research suggests that these caregivers bear greater levels of physical and mental burdens than caregivers of the frail elderly or people with diabetes.

“Cancer caregivers often spend more hours per day providing more intensive care over a shorter period of time,” Kent says. “The health of cancer patients can deteriorate quickly, which can cause heightened stress for caregivers. And aggressive cancer treatments can leave patients greatly weakened. They may need extra care, and their medications may need to be monitored more often.”

Cancer survivorship, too, can bring intense levels of uncertainty and anxiety. “A hallmark of cancer is that it may return months or even years later,” Kent says. “Both cancer survivors and their caregivers may struggle to live with ongoing fear and stress of a cancer recurrence.”

Dementia can also create unique challenges to caregivers. The health care costs alone can take an enormous toll. One recent study found that out-of-pocket spending for families of dementia patients during the last five years of life averaged more than $60,000, which was 81% higher than for older people who died from other causes.

Research has found that caregivers for people with dementia have particularly high levels of stress hormones. Caregivers and care recipients often struggle with the problems related to dementia, such as agitation, aggression, trouble sleeping, wandering, and confusion. These caregivers spend more days sick with an infectious disease, have a weaker immune response to the flu vaccine, and have slower wound healing.

One major successful and expanding effort to help ease caregiver stress is known as REACH (Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health). Just over a decade ago, NIH-funded researchers showed that a supportive, educational program for dementia caregivers could greatly improve their quality of life and reduce rates of clinical depression. As part of the program, trained staff connected with caregivers over six months by making several home visits, telephone calls, and structured telephone support sessions.

“REACH showed that what caregivers need is support. They need to know that there are people out there and resources available to help them,” says Dr. John Haaga, who oversees NIH’s behavioral and social research related to aging. REACH II, a follow-up intervention, was tailored for culturally diverse caregivers.

The REACH program is now being more widely employed. It’s been adapted for use in free community-based programs, such as in local Area Agencies on Aging. It’s also being used by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and by the Indian Health Service, in collaboration with the Administration for Community Living.

“We know how to support families caring for an older adult. But that knowledge is not easily accessible to the families who need it,” says Dr. Laura Gitlin, a coauthor of the REACH study and an expert on caregiving and aging at Johns Hopkins University. “Caregivers need to know it’s not only acceptable, but recommended, that they find time to care for themselves. They should consider joining a caregiver’s support group, taking breaks each day, and keeping up with their own hobbies and interests.”

To learn more about aging-related and dementia caregiver resources, contact NIH’s National Institute on Aging at 1-800-222-2225 or niaic@nia.nih.gov. To learn about cancer-related caregiver resources, contact NIH’s National Cancer Institute at 1-800-422-6237. See the Web Links box to find a variety of online caregiving resources.

Article Review. This special issue is a collection of previously published articles. However, articles were updated and re-reviewed by NIH experts prior to inclusion. Published December 2017.

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles