Health Beat with Dr. Alicia Arnold: Family Caregiver's Month

(WEAU) - November is National Family Caregivers month. The numbers of adults in America providing care for family members has increased, and today, Dr. Alicia Arnold is here to discuss this topic that affects so many of us.

CE: About how many adults are caring for a loved one who is sick or disabled?

AA: About four out of every ten adults are family caregivers. For some of us, it may first bring to mind an adult caring for an elderly parent, but it includes many more, such as adults caring for children with special needs or wounded veterans.

CE: Who is the typical caregiver?

AA: While women are more frequently the caregivers, the number of men providing care for family members is rising. Many are middle age adults, but young adults are providing care as well. These can be tough jobs, involving administering medication and managing multiple medical problems.

CE: What is the economic impact of caregiving?

AA: To try to minimize the costs of home health care, many people rely on family members to help. Caregivers provide hundreds of billions of dollars of unpaid care every year and are really the foundation of long-term care for many in our country. Many caregivers are employed and are trying to balance their own career with caring for a family member. Caregivers sometimes use up their savings and have to pay significant out of pocket costs for their loved one.

CE: What are some potential health impacts on the caregivers?

AA: Stress can impact the immune systems of caregivers and may make them more likely to get sick themselves. They have a higher rate of depression, and many meet criteria for major depression. Caregivers frequently report that their healthy eating and exercise habits suffer.

CE: What are some tips for caregivers?

AA: Take care of your own health too, so you can be better able to help your loved one. Please seek professional help if you are feeling depressed. Try to keep all medical records and legal documents in one place. It can be a mountain of paperwork and staying organized can help save you headaches. If you have questions about your family member's care, ask questions of the health care provider. Keep asking if you don't understand. Finally, remember you aren't alone. Many others are in the same situation and can be a resource and source of support.

CE: What are some ideas of how viewers can help a friend or family member who is currently functioning as a family caregiver?

AA: Ask them how you can help or give them a break if possible. Have them give you specific tasks, for example running a certain errand. Even just offering a listening ear can be a big help.

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