Helping with Health Care Takes Heavy Toll on Caregivers

Aimee Sharp
Author | Shield HealthCare
02/16/16  10:21 AM PST

By Karen Pallarito for the Chicago Tribune

Millions of family and friends who help older, disabled adults manage medications and navigate the health system may be sacrificing their own well-being, a new study suggests.

Caregivers who provided “substantial help” with health care in these settings were roughly twice as likely to experience physical, financial and emotional difficulties as those who did not provide that help, the study found.

Such caregivers, if they worked for a living, were three times more likely to be less productive on the job due to caregiving-related distractions and fatigue, according to the analysis.

The researchers believe it’s the first nationally representative study of the effects of caregiving experienced by those who assist older adults with health care.

“Families are really invisible, even though they’re commonly attending medical visits or they’re involved when someone’s in the hospital, managing the transition back home,” said study author Jennifer Wolff. She is an associate professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

The study is published in the Feb. 15 online edition of JAMA Internal Medicine.

Caregivers see themselves as daughters, sons, spouses and friends — not necessarily as “caregivers,” Carol Levine, director of the New York City-based United Hospital Fund’s Families and Health Care Project, explained in a commentary in the same issue. They may feel uncomfortable or too overwhelmed to take advantage of support groups and services, she said.

Yet, they are the ones asking questions about treatments, giving injections and managing medications — a stressful role that can take a toll on their well-being, she said.

“By expecting family members to do all this stuff with relatively little support, we’ve created a multigenerational set of health problems, and so I think it’s extremely concerning,” Levine said.

Read the Full Article at the Chicago Tribune.

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