The Health Risks of Caregiving
A caregiver can be a father, mother, spouse, child, grandchild--anyone who has a responsibility for caring for someone with a chronic illness or disability. There are approximately 22 million adult caregivers in the United States. (One in every 4 US households is involved in caring for a chronically ill or disabled family member or friend.)
The AMA's Caregiver Health webpages are designed to provide providers and caregivers with information and tools for assessing caregiver health and for locating additional resources to assist in reducing the risks of caregiving. In addition, the AMA has developed a short Caregiver Self-assessment Tool for physican use. We are sure you will find the Caregiver Self-assessment Tool to be a useful addition to your busy practice.
To download a copy of the Caregiver Health Self-Assessment Tool, click on the appropriate link below:
The following topics are available for those seeking more information on caregiving:
Issues and Risks in Caregiving
In addition to taking on the household chores, shopping, transportation, and personal care, 37% of caregivers are involved in giving medications, injections, andmedical treatments to the person for whom they are providing care. Seventy-seven percent of those caregivers report the need to ask for advice about the medications and medical treatments, and the person they usually turn to is their physician. While they talk to the physician about their loved one's health, they don't talk about their own. This is a population at increased risk of morbidity and mortality. Yet we and they often ignore these health risks.
Reliance on family support networks is a major part of national health policy, and demographic trends and changes in the health care delivery system suggest an increased reliance on family caregivers in the future. It is estimated that 80% of community care is provided by family caregivers, at an approximate economic value of $200 billion annually.
The research literature is replete with findings that family caregivers face inevitable stresses and burdens. The role of caregiving is potentially an occupational hazard, and its demands place caregivers at risk for psychological and physical problems. These include increased morbidity and mortality, chronic stress, family conflicts, and failure to meet ones personal and emotional needs. Manifestations of caregiver stress and burden include burnout, self-neglect, excessive use of drugs or alcohol, depression, and neglect, abuse, and premature institutional placement of the patient.
Primary care physicians can provide a strong model to guide relationships with family caregivers. An effective relationship model acknowledges the key linkage role of the primary care physician and recognizes that caregivers and patients form interdependent units. It also considers the caregiver as a partner with the physician in the care of the patient. The physician demonstrates concern for and carries out periodic assessment of the caregiver as well as the patient and validates the role of the caregiver.