Shifting the focus to the caregiver may save a life

Care_For_Caregiver_CvrIf you’ve ever been the caregiver for an impaired elderly loved one, you know where your focus lies almost every minute of every day—with the person you are caring for. My mom is the full-time caregiver for my dad, who’s had Parkinson’s for the past 12 years. Parkinson’s is a slow-growing disease that causes uncontrolled shaking, an inability to move and, at the later stages, dementia. My dad is 170 pounds; my mom weighs 95 pounds. My dad needs to be lifted out of bed, needs help to stand up and requires assistance for the few brief steps he takes with his walker to the bathroom, kitchen or living room. He needs to be bathed and shaved, and needs help with brushing his teeth. It’s a struggle to dress Dad, as he doesn’t have control of his muscles to help Mom put on his Depends, pants, shirt, socks and sneakers. Exercise can help Dad sustain what limited range of motion he has, so Mom cues him through his daily exercise routine. She also sings songs with him and has him recite...

California caregivers stressed, in poor health

stressed caregiverCompared to caregivers in the rest of the United States, those in California have higher levels of stress and poorer health. To many of us who work with family caregivers in multiple states, those facts seemed obvious, but we now have data to support our beliefs. According to the 2011 UCLA policy brief “ Stressed and Strapped: Caregivers in California,” baby boomer caregivers are at the greatest risk for stress induced illness. There are 2.6 million boomer caregivers between the ages of 45 and 64 in our state. According to the study, compared with older caregivers and non-caregivers of the same age, boomer caregivers are more likely to binge drink, smoke or be overweight. The majority have poor health behaviors because of the stress they are experiencing. But why are California caregivers more stressed than caregivers in other states? For reasons that include the demographic makeup of caregivers and the lack of a strong support system in our state, California caregivers...

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