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Spouses Face Hurdles When Caring for Elderly Loved Ones

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Caring for a sick or disabled elderly relative is difficult – physically, emotionally and financially – on any family member, and spousal caregivers face even greater challenges.

“Spouses are older and dealing with their own age-related health limitations,” says Steven H. Zarit, a Pennsylvania University gerontologist.

According to a Kaiser Health News report, today’s longer life spans, in which once-fatal conditions like heart disease have become manageable chronic illnesses, mean the “sickness” part of “in sickness and health” can last for years.

Medical and psychological literature has long reported that caregivers face risks to their own well-being, particularly when caring for someone with dementia. A new study from the University of South Florida and the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that high caregiving strain among spouses increased the risk of stroke by 23 percent, and the association was particularly strong among husbands caring for wives.

“Spouses are likely to take on more than they can reasonably do,” Zarit says.

President Barack Obama’s proposed 2011 budget would add $102.5 million for family caregiving programs. The money would boost existing programs that serve family caregivers, including training and counseling, referrals, respite care, transportation, adult day programs and home care.   Read the in-depth article online

Paula Span is the author of "When the Time Comes: Families With Aging Parents Share Their Struggles and Solutions."


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