A new report demonstrates something caregivers understand intuitively: They need care too. Let's look at the details.
Bottom line first
A report in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry shows that caregivers of spouses with Alzheimer's appear to be healthier when given counseling and group and telephone support.
This study in 50 words or less
Researchers randomly assigned 406 spouse Alzheimer's caregivers to receive either: six individual counseling sessions, support groups and telephone help; or conventional information and help if requested. The counseling group self-reported better health and less illness; the effect started at four months and lasted over a year.
Yes, but. . .
The differences, while statistically significant, were not huge--self-reported health was about 10 percent better in the counseling group.
The caregivers assessed and reported their own health; perceptions of health may be enhanced in those receiving attention and care.
So what are you going to do about it?
If you're a caregiver, pay attention to the widely circulated advice to take care of yourself with individual counseling and group support. If telephone support is available in your community--often through local Alzheimer's groups, hospitals, and state or county programs--use it.
Previous reports derived from this study showed that the spouse with Alzheimer's stayed out of a nursing home 1.5 years longer when caregivers participated in this support program. In other words, caregiver support programs benefit not just the caregiver, but the patient. It's not selfish to seek respite care in order to care for yourself.
Our site has some excellent resources on caregiver issues, including support and self-care.
The Alzheimer's Foundation of America operates a free 24-hour hotline (866-232-8484). The group also directs you to local groups that provide support for Alzheimer's caregivers.
Published On: September 07, 2007