Understanding a Caregiver’s Stress

A 2003 study of caregivers has proven that the off-repeated adage “stress can kill you” is true. The focus of the investigation was the effect the stress of caregiving had on caregivers.

A team of researchers at Ohio State University Medical Center has found a chemical marker in the blood that shows a significant increase under chronic stress and is linked to an impaired immune system response in aging adults. The team, led by Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, reports in the June 30, 2003 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on a 6-year study of elderly people caring for spouses with Alzheimer’s Disease. With the caregivers, the team found a four-fold increase in an immune system protein — interleukin 6 (IL-6) — as compared to a control group of non-caregivers. Only the stress of caregiving correlated to the marked increase of IL-6 in the caregiver group. All other factors, including age, were not significant to the outcome. Even the younger caregivers saw an increase in IL-6.

The study also found that the caregivers had a 63% higher death rate than the control group. About 70% of the caregivers died before the end of the study and had to be replaced by new subjects. Another surprising result was that high levels of IL-6 continued even three years after the caregiving stopped. Dr. Glaser proposes that prolonged stress may have triggered a permanent abnormality of the immune system.

The problem is if this response is initiated repeatedly over a long period; it can have a dangerous effect on the body. This repetitive initiation of the stress response is common among caregivers — especially those caring for loved ones with dementia. Providing supervision or physical assistance many hours a week and over a period of years turns out to be extremely stressful. This type of stress is often unrelenting, occurring day after day and week after week. And the long-term effects of this stress are more pronounced in middle-aged and older people who are precisely the group most likely offering long-term care to loved ones.

If you are a caregiver, please give us a call.  Through a properly-designed Life Care Plan for your loved one, the Farr Law Firm can help you minimize or eliminate much of your stress.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
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.

Leave a comment

Thank you for your upload