Studies Show Family Caregivers (of Non-Dementia Patients) Find Role Rewarding and Potentially Life Extending

Farr Elder Law Firm FairfaxMichelle’s in-laws helped care for her children for ten years. Two years ago, her father-in-law, Steve, passed away and her mother-in-law, Elizabeth, was left alone and her health was deteriorating. Michelle, who is an RN, decided it was time to give back to her loving mother-in-law, who helped her for all those years. She decided to move Elizabeth into her family’s home and care for her full-time.

Michelle heard from her friends and other family members how taxing it is to be a caregiver. After caring for Elizabeth for six months, Michelle felt these feelings at times, but most of the time she felt appreciated, and like she was giving back. The children also loved having their grandmother around.

Did you know that, like Michelle, times of feeling overwhelmed and frustrated are not the norm for most caregivers? A recent study found that a majority of caregivers (of non-dementia patients) not only feel fulfilled by caregiving for loved ones but also live longer than their counterparts who are not caregivers.

Over 3,500 caregivers were studied by the Center on Aging and Health at Johns Hopkins University. The caregivers were 64 years old on average, and were primarily females. Of those studied, only 17% reported high levels of strain due to caregiving, and the findings over a six year period were that the family caregivers in the study were 18% less likely to die than the non-caregiving participants.

Why caregivers were more likely to remain healthy was not a subject of this study, but experts in aging concur with the study’s findings that caregiving for family members is primarily a rewarding experience. As is the case with Michelle in our example, giving back care to parents and grandparents for all that they gave to family is a typically a source of happiness.

Are you a caregiver? As you know, it is not always possible to avoid stress, so we need to learn strategies on how best to cope. Caregivers should:

  • Maintain a healthy positive attitude; believe that you can do whatever you set your mind to accomplish, especially when you believe it to be the right thing to do.
  • Find ways to take a little time for yourself and relax. A ten minute nap, a soothing bath or hot shower, reading a chapter a day in your favorite book or stopping for a refreshing beverage in your busy day.
  • Eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet to keep yourself fueled for the day’s activities.
  • Don’t overlook your own health; get your annual check-ups and preventive health screenings as well as your immunizations.
  • Get enough sleep each night and daily rest breaks.
  • Reach out for help and accept help when offered. Realize you can’t (and you don’t have to) do it all! Set up a network of family, friends and aging services that can help you when you are in need. Don’t be afraid to ask!

For additional tips on caregiving and alleviating stress, read some of our recent blog posts including:

More Men are Becoming Caregivers for Loved Ones with Dementia, Only-Children: Caregiving without Siblings, Feeling Torn Between Caring for Your Children and Your Parents, and more (use the search function on this blog or click on the topic “caregiving” on the lower right.)

It is important to note that this study specifically did not address being a caregiver of a dementia patient, which is a much more stressful task.  Depression and other physical ailments frequently arise from caregiver burnout, and these symptoms are much more likely if your care recipient suffers from dementia.

What happens when you do burnout, or when your loved one needs more help than you can provide? Nursing homes in Northern Virginia cost $9,000 – $12,000 per month (a few thousand less in the Fredericksburg, Virginia area), which can be catastrophic even for wealthy families. By being proactive and helping your loves ones plan for long term care in advance, you can help make sure your loved ones always receive the care they need without worry or financial struggle.  You’ll further avoid many costly legal headaches that often result when people are not prepared for incapacity or ongoing care needs.  It’s never too early to get started. Learn more at The Fairfax and Fredericksburg Medicaid Asset Protection Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. website, or call us at our Virginia Elder Law Fairfax office at 703-691-1888 or at our Virginia Elder Law Fredericksburg office at 540-479-1435 to make an appointment for a consultation.

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.