New Controversy on the Lifespan of Caregivers

A new study from Johns Hopkins University suggests that caregivers may have a lower chance of mortality than non-caregivers, contradicting previous research on the negative effects of caregiving on health. Explore the limitations of the study and the potential benefits of being a caregiver.

New Controversy on the Lifespan of Caregivers
Caregiver Stress and Burden Take its Toll 

There is a new controversy brewing about the lifespan of caregivers and how caregiving stress affects health. “Caregiver burden” is often a topic of studies on the family caregiver. The stories of caregivers always concentrate  on the stress and challenges of providing care for a family member.  In fact, the statistics show that 50% of family caregivers taking care of a family member with dementia dies before the dementia patient.

A recent study out of Johns Hopkins University Center  on Aging and Wellness intends to prove that there is NOT a clear link between caregiving and increased mortality rates.

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The study compared the  number of deaths in a population of more than 3,000 caregivers with the variety of deaths in a population of the same number of non-caregivers. The analysts came to a surprising conclusion: those who were taking care of an elderly family member had an 18 percent reduced chance of passing away, compared with their non-caregiving equivalents.
These results are contrary to the reams of previous research studies linking the physical and emotional strain of caregiving with a greater possibility of ailment and fatality.

“Caring for a chronically sick person in your family is frequently connected with tension, and caregiving has been formerly linked to increased mortality rates.”” says David L. Roth, Ph.D., director of the Johns Hopkins University Center on Aging and Wellness, lead author of the research study.

A host of studies provide credence to this bleaker outlook of caregiver health: a 2003 examination discovered women who were looking after a partner nine or more hours each week had double the danger of cardiovascular disease; the Journal of the American Medical Organization (JAMA) released a report that claimed highly-stressed spousal caregivers are 63 percent more likely to die than non-caregivers of their same age; and, as a population, household caregivers are also more likely to show lower-quality health and engage in less self-care habits.

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Anyone who has handled the function of providing care for an aging family member can vouch for the myriad everyday challenges. Whether the care provided is out of love for a family member, or due to the fact that nobody else was willing to provide care, a unique set of troubles undoubtedly surface throughout each care partner’s journey.

Acknowledging this truth is an essential step to establishing valuable coping and anxiety management skills, but could there also be value for care partners that is not seen?

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“Adverse public wellness and media portrayals of the high risk of family caregiving may do an injustice by portraying caregiving as dangerous,” states Roth. “In many cases, caregivers report receiving benefits of enhanced self-confidence, acknowledgment and gratitude from their care recipients.”.

Dr Roth suggests that there can be indisputable benefits of being a family care partner, but only, “if highly demanding situations can be prevented or managed effectively.”

The study unquestionably has its limitations– specifically, a lack of knowledge of the types of care being provided, and how impaired the care recipients were. It also does not address the working caregiver or the unreluctant caregiver.

Care partners were also more likely to acquire the previously mentioned benefits if they were voluntarily looking after an aging family member who had the ability to voice their gratitude about being taken care of, according to Roth.

Regrettably, numerous adult children of aging family members particularly find themselves in the uncomfortable position of looking after aging parents they perceive as ungrateful, demeaning and demanding.

Time commitment also appears to play an important role on a family caregiver.  The family  care partner that is a 24/7 caretaker is less likely to encounter the positive health advantages of caregiving than someone who does not need to provide that level of continuous stress.

Have more questions? Check out the Frequently Asked Question section of the website. You will find a lot of different questions answered directly.

So how do you enjoy the benefits of providing care for an aging family member? Learn about mindfulness and incorporate stress management techniques into your daily schedule. The research from all studies supports that a care partner that takes care of themselves will enjoy health benefits instead of medical conditions.

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction for Care Partners

Caregiver stress test #1

Caregiver Stress #2

Caregiver stress #3

Caregiver stress and feelings of guilt

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