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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Study Shows Caregiver Stress Includes Depression and Shorter Lifespan

The exhaustion and stress of caregivers for elders with Alzheimer's makes the caregivers' own health suffer. A recent study from Ohio State compared non-caregivers with caregivers for Alzheimer's sufferers. The caregivers for people with Alzheimer's had much higher rates of depression and of changes in the immune system. The article, at Medical News Today, titled "Stressed Caregivers Had Decreased Lifespan" explains a three decade long study between the effects of psychological stress and the immune system, showing genetic and molecular changes in the immune system from stress. Lifespan was shortened by the effects of the stress.

The three decade long study has also included medical students, newlyweds, divorced spouses, widows and widowers, and married couples. The recent study on caregivers of Alzheimer's sufferers included a professor of immunology, a professor of psychiatry, and the National Institute on Aging.

The symptoms of depression for the caregivers of people with Alzheimer's were twice as severe as for non-caregivers.

What can be done to help the caregivers for people who have Alzheimer's?

Articles and studies say that doctors refer to caregivers as the "hidden patients". The studies and numbers keep adding up to show that caregivers are exhausted, stressed, suffering more depression, and living a shortened lifespan when compared to non-caregivers.

A recent article at by author Gail Sheehy asked "How can we help our nation's caregivers?" With the population of elderly people who have Alzheimer's rising the topic of caring for the caregiver is becoming a crisis.

Recent studies have proved that providing training for caregivers made a difference in caregiver stress. An article titled "Training Helps Alzheimer's Caregivers" in the Associated Press on August 12, 2007 discussed the proven stress reduction for caregivers who received training. The problem is that most Alzheimer's caregivers don't have any spare time to spend finding and getting training. Daily life is an ongoing struggle to balance all of the demands.

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