Caregiving: Takes a toll — Part 1

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UPI Health Correspondent
ALBANY, N.Y., Sept. 26 (UPI) — Some 2.5 million of the 44 million U.S. caregivers sacrifice their own physical and mental health taking care of elderly parents. They suffer from depression, fatigue, financial hardship, poor eating habits and a lack of exercise, and some self-medicate with prescription drugs and alcohol, a study reveals.

Ninety-one percent of the 528 of U.S. caregivers surveyed — all in fair/poor health — suffer from depression, according to a study released by Evercare, a provider of health plans for people who have chronic or advanced illness, and the National Alliance for Caregiving.

Ninety percent say they worry more or feel more stress now than they did prior to becoming caregivers, and 87 percent of the respondents cited lack of energy/sleep, 60 percent reported pain or aching, and 38 percent reported weight gain or loss.

The sad thing is that no one really cares. I have interviewed hundreds of politicians, policymakers, church officials and non-profit groups and I am always told the same thing: The American system is based on personal responsibility, and each family is responsible for taking care of their relatives.

As a result, if a caregiver chooses his or her parents incorrectly — genes that include cancer, heart disease, diabetes or Alzheimer’s disease — then a family caregiver can expect to spend several years — the average is about four years — caregiving for a spouse or a relative to the point that their health, finances, career and family life suffer.
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