Family Caring for Sick Older Adults Face Many Challenges

When older people become sick, it is not at all uncommon for family members to step in to provide varying degrees of care. Those who provide a great deal of services on behalf of their loved ones, however, may also suffer emotional difficulty themselves, a new study found.

The study that arrived at those findings involved more than 1,700 family caregivers of more than 1,100 older adults with disabilities and other concerns. Researchers found that family and unpaid caregivers who provided “substantial help” were very likely to suffer emotional difficulty. They were also quite likely to suffer from physical difficulty. Those who provided extensive help were also much more likely to find their personal time cut and their ability to work impacted, researchers found.

As people age, there are a number of concerns that may arise that could demand family and unpaid caregivers to assist. Alzheimer’s disease, difficulty with vision, problems with mobility and even cancer may all prompt family members to step in and provide much-needed care at home. While this option is often considered a labor of love, along with being a money-saver that can help older relatives feel more comfortable, researchers did offer some precautions. They urged healthcare providers and caregivers to seek out services that might be available to take some of the burdens off a caregiver’s shoulders.

Caregivers of older adults who are living with Alzheimer’s disease, other forms of dementia or potentially life-limiting illnesses, such as cancer, may find a number of support services available to help them with care at home. The American Cancer Society, for example, offers treatment transportation in some areas. Respite care for caregivers of the elderly is also available in many communities.

If caregiving is taking its toll, caregivers will find help is available. To find out what services could help in a particular community, speak with the loved one’s healthcare provider for local insights.

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