Elder Caregivers Found To Have Higher Levels of Stress & Health Issues

The focus of most New York elder care planning discussions naturally revolves around the needs of seniors. Are they receiving proper nutrition? Do their caregivers timely attend to their dressing, bathing, and washroom needs? Do they remain connected to the community with opportunities to use their unique skills and abilities? Our New York elder law attorneys know that for far too many seniors, even these basic needs remain unmet. The problem of elder neglect and abuse is troubling, and it will likely become more of a concern in the coming years as the population ages and the total number of seniors in need of extra help skyrockets.

However, a holistic approach to senior care requires not just consideration of the senior’s needs but also understanding of the effects on senior caregivers. A CNN Living article this week examined the way that helping an elder resident impacts adult family members. The story of one woman was shared who took her 72-year old father out of a nursing home out of concerns for his well-being. Instead she moved him into her on own two bedroom apartment. The woman admits that she put her life on hold, because the obligations of working full-time while helping her father was overwhelming. She was often required to miss work to take him to a wide range of appointments with medical professionals. In addition, she used her lunch breaks to ensure he took his medications and made it to his dialysis appointments. She confesses, “It was like ‘oh my, what did I get myself into?’ Sometimes I would just go into the bathroom and cry.”

Her situation is not unique as a new “Stress in America” survey from the American Psychological Association found that at least 55% of senior caregivers feel overwhelmed by the task. Not only did the caregivers report higher levels of personal stress, but they were also found to be in poorer health themselves. Caregivers were more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors in an attempt to alleviate the stress.

As any elder law attorney or others involved is long-term care planning can attest, the quality of care received by a senior is directly dependent on the work and well being of their caregivers. If caregivers are stressed or unhealthy, there will likely be repercussions for the elder. That is why psychological experts suggest that families be realistic when conducting long-term care planning or deciding what to do when a senior is in need. The psychologist leading the latest stress report explained, “It’s impossible to be all things to everyone, so what we have to do is have honest straight talk with ourselves about how much we can handle and when we seek help from others.”

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