Women’s Health Suffers as Caregiving Roles Grow
This information is something to keep in mind for all of us as we watch our parents grow older and try to take on the additional tasks of caregiving roles for them while they can still be at home.
As the number of home caregivers continues to grow, researchers are noticing several distinct patterns. First, most of the caregivers in the country are female. It is estimated that 66 percent of all caregivers are women. In addition, the burden of caregiving is affecting the health of women. They are taking on more roles and handling finances, daily tasks, errands, hygiene, shopping, transportation and other vital tasks.
Caregivers are often forced to balance their personal lives with the need to help a family member or friend who is not able to function without them. A survey of caregivers found that one out of six was working full-time or part-time. This creates an additional burden and strain that affects health.
A study from AARP reveals that 17 percent of female caregivers believe their own health is getting worse because of the stress of caring for another individual. The impact of this additional role varies, but researchers have noticed that the caregivers’ immune system is affected for three years after they no longer provide help to a person with dementia. The daily stress of helping another person bathe, dress, eat, walk and take medications adds up quickly.
The impact on women’s health ranges from higher rates of depression to more vulnerable immune systems. In addition, researchers are seeing higher rates of anxiety among female caregivers. They also notice higher rates of obesity and more chronic health problems. Although each individual caregiver can experience different symptoms and problems, the overall negative impact on health is widespread.
If you are a caregiver and have noticed your health is deteriorating, it is important to take steps to reduce stress and build immunity. You may need to consult your doctor, reach out to friends for help or delegate caregiving duties. You can also join support groups to help you eliminate stress and find a way to take care of your own health.