A recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins University indicates that caregivers aren’t nearly as susceptible to poor health as once believed, as providing care has no more significance on a caregiver’s immune system than any other job. For years, caregivers have seen studies that reached the opposite conclusion, that caregiving carried such an enormous amount of stress that it negatively affected one’s health.
It’s not too difficult to understand why this was an accepted theory.
By the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, those affected are left with fewer and fewer abilities. Over time, they’re unable to complete tasks without a caregiver’s assistance. The toll on a caregiver is great, and they often become weary and tired. But weariness isn’t equal to an extensively weakened immune system, as shown by the Johns Hopkins University study. However, there is a danger that caregivers will subconsciously use the study as an excuse to go haphazardly through life, ignoring habits that ensure good health.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) considers caregiving an important public health issue, and caregivers should, too.
They may not be as susceptible to disease as once thought, but caregivers who fail to pay attention to personal health are still vulnerable. This is especially true as caregivers age.
In the U.S., the average caregiver is 49.2 years old, and 34 percent are 65 or older. Those in the age range of 18-49 comprise 48 percent of caregivers. Within these age categories, 53 percent claim to have experienced a health decline, which in turn compromised caregiving duties.
A 2017 study by the CDC reported that 17.6 percent of caregivers within a given month experienced physically unhealthy days that lasted two weeks or more. Additionally, 14.5 percent experienced feeling mentally unhealthy for 14 days or more.
These stats drive home the importance of caregivers visiting their personal physicians, including dentists, for yearly checkups. Caregivers should also follow up on any health issues that appear in the interim between visits. Ignoring medical concerns can result in the development of chronic illnesses.
Experts suggest you consider the following tests, per the recommendation of your healthcare professional:
• Get screened for colon cancer starting at age 45. If there’s a family history of colorectal cancer, get screened earlier.
• Every three years, women between the ages of 21 and 29 should have a Pap test. It will detect abnormal changes in the cervix that may indicate a cancer risk. From ages 30-65, the American Cancer Society recommends a Pap test combined with an HPV test every five years.
• A blood glucose test to determine the risk of diabetes is important for caregivers who are overweight or 45 or older.
• Baby boomers have a higher risk of contracting hepatitis C. Caregivers who were born between 1945 and 1965 should be screened. Don’t wait for symptoms to appear.
• Get screened for osteoporosis if you’re a woman 65 or older.
Ask your physician for a list of screenings to be administered to your specific age group.
Staying healthy is important for anyone, but when caregivers fall ill, it compromises the care they provide. It also places the loved one under their care at risk of contracting the same disease.
Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s Disease.