When planning for the long-term care of a senior, the family focuses on the senior, creating a plan that makes sure the senior is in a safe environment, has good nutrition, maintains good hygiene, and receives all medications at the right times. Don’t forget another very critical element to the lifeplan – the person or persons who will be providing most of this care.
In many cases, the caregiver is a spouse who is also elderly and has his or her own health issues. This spouse may insist that he or she will provide the caregiving and may place little attention on his or her own needs which can lead to disastrous results. In some cases, the caregiver spouse may be in such bad health that he or she is not providing adequate care. In other cases, the caregiver spouse may be providing good care but the strain of doing so is causing the caregiver spouse’s health to decline sharply.
Caregiver Stress Syndrome
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that a family caregiver often has elevated levels of depression and anxiety; higher use of psychoactive medications; worse self-reported physical health; compromised immune function; and increased risk of early death. Not surprisingly, the CDC also reports that over half (53%) of caregivers indicate that their ability to provide care declines as their personal health declines. This negative health impact on caregivers is often labeled as Caregiver Stress Syndrome.
Statistical studies on Caregiver Stress Syndrome have reported that:
- 45% of caregivers reported chronic conditions, including heart attacks, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis;
- Caregivers have a 23% higher level of stress hormones and 15% lower level of antibody responses than non-caregivers,
- 10% of primary caregivers report that they are under physical stress from the demands of physically assisting their loved one;
- Women who spend 9 or more hours a week caring for a spouse increased their risk of heart disease by 100%;
- 72% of caregivers report that they had not gone to the doctor as often as they should have;
- 58% of caregivers state that their eating habits are worse than before they assumed this role;
- Caregivers between the ages of 66 and 96 have a 63% higher mortality rate than non-caregivers of the same age.
Plan Ahead for the Senior and the Caregiver(s)
Based on the very real likelihood that a caregiver spouse will not be able to provide care without experiencing some or all of these issues, the family must consider the needs of the caregiver spouse as well as the spouse needing care.
Working with an experienced elder law attorney is a good way for the family to learn the available caregiving solutions which they may not have considered and solutions that ease the financial burden of caregiving.
A complete long-term care plan or lifeplan for a senior must consider all options and all sources of government benefits and resources to determine the best lifecare plan for the senior, the caregivers, and the entire family.