The typical lifespan of adults is extending into an age range when dementia disorders are likely to appear, and it has become increasingly likely that a person will be thrust into a position that involves caring for an elderly parent or demented spouse. This change in role is stressful for the new caregiver, creating a situation called “caregiver burden.” This situation can be extremely risky for the caregiver, putting him or her at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, anxiety disorders, or depression.
Research suggests that all caregivers will experience at least some burden during their time as caregivers. Even when care recipients only have mild cognitive disorders, caregivers often experience significant risk for psychological and physical distress. Certain personality traits are related to higher risk for caregiver burden, including family closeness, support, and cultural opinions about the elderly.
Treatment options and therapies are still being explored by researchers, and there is some indication which treatments are ineffective, including music therapy and holistic relaxation therapy. Therapies that are currently considered effective include networking therapy and support therapy, but all therapy types are still under scrutiny.
Many caregivers are hostile to the notion that they might be having problems, and may resist the idea that their current ailments could be related to the health of their loved ones. Caregivers tend to feel that it is a duty and tend to be unwilling to consider other care options that might be associated with fewer health-related risks.
Elizabeth Hlibichuk, ’08 Mount Vernon, IA
Sponsor: Carolyn Zerbe Enns