Lack of Support Jeopardizes Health of Stroke Caregivers

by Lois Etienne on November 1, 2010

in Caregiver Support

QUESTION: I have been caring for my husband, who suffered a stroke a year ago, and the strain is starting to wear on me. I used to be a healthy 75-year-old woman, but I don’t feel so great anymore. My family seems to think I can do it all. What should I do?

You should attempt to get help right away before your own health deteriorates. New research from Northwestern Medicine shows that a lack of understanding and help from friends and relatives causes the most stress and the greatest threat to a caregiver’s own health and well-being.

These and other stressors, like simply trying to take care of themselves and their families along with the demands of caregiving, can cause caregivers to report signs of anxiety and depression. The study of 58 caregivers of stroke survivors identified 15 types of common problems caregivers face. The most stressful problems concerned friends and family who criticize, ignore or don’t help caregivers.Washington State Senior Woman

“Often families aren’t understanding or they might blame a caregiver for not doing more than they’re doing,” said Rosemarie King, the study’s lead investigator and research professor in physical medicine and rehabilitation at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “We had one caregiver in our study ask if we could send her a write-up that she could just hand to family members to explain how harassed and stressed caregivers are.”

The next most stressful problem category was the difficulty caregivers experienced in trying to sustain themselves and their families. Social isolation and changes in their relationship with the stroke survivor also top caregivers’ concerns.

Have a candid talk with your family and explain your dilemma. Tell them you could use an extra hand with groceries and meal preparation. If they can’t help, then take matters into your own hands. Join an online or in-person support group, contact your local Area Agency on Aging or call your local Home Instead Senior Care office. The organization’s CAREGiversSM are screened, trained, bonded and insured, and have passed thorough background checks. CAREGivers offer an important respite for family caregivers by providing services for just a few hours a week and up to 24 hours a day.

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