The Hidden Cost of Senior Care

July 6, 2013 | By Lorenzo Mejia

Elderly Senior Home Care Frail Woman in BedIf you are caring for elderly loved ones, there are many things you worry about:  their health, their ability to take care of themselves, the costs of future medical care, getting them to appointments, their loss of cognitive ability.  The list goes on and on.

Do you worry about yourself?  It’s not uncommon for people who are caregivers for older family members, especially if they have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, to overlook that they are subject to enormous stress.  Having cared for one parent about a decade ago, and now, helping families who are caring for their parents, I believe the environment has made this worse.

With the Internet, there is so much information.  In our market of Chapel Hill and Durham, NC, there is a high percentage of highly educated, successful people.  Their nature is to research, learn and solve.  Years ago it was more common to accept the doctor’s edicts.  There were fewer resources available to understand and, perhaps, challenge a diagnosis.  Equally, we understood less about dementia and other conditions.  Now the medical community knows that dementia is the symptom (brain failure) while the cause may be Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, Lewy Body disease, etc.

While knowledge is a good thing, the road to attaining it may be stressful, especially when it involves a husband, wife, mom or dad.   Stress accumulates over time.  Family caregivers may be at risk for heart disease, diabetes, depression and various other problems.

Because their focus is their loved one, spouses and adult children do not appreciate the risk of caregiver stress.  Experts report that women caregivers suffer greater psychological distress than men.  Male caregivers report more physiological responses.  These include obesity, high cholesterol and high blood sugar.   The added stress can exacerbate your health issues.

What is the solution?  Recognize the risk, make an honest self-assessment and take action.   Regular exercise and a good diet are critical.  Socializing with friends and enjoying hobbies can help relieve stress.  Government and non-profit agencies offer a variety of support groups and stress management workshops.  If you live in Orange

You may say that you do not have the time. Sometimes, a home care agency can help by providing a compassionate caregiver a few hours per week.   No one says it’s easy.  Sadly, you cannot care for a sick person if you are sick yourself.

Within Acorn’s service area of Chapel Hill, Durham and surrounding areas in North Carolina (Hillsborough, Pittsboro, Morrisville, Cary, and Apex) the following resources may be especially helpful:

  • Orange County Department on Aging, 2551 Homestead Road, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27516, (919) 968-2070
  • Durham Center for Senior Life, 406 Rigsbee Avenue – Suite 202, Durham, North Carolina   27701, (919) 688-8247
  • Chatham County Council on Aging, 365 North Carolina 87, Pittsboro, North Carolina   27312, (919) 542-4512
  • Triangle J Area Agency on Aging, 4307 Emperor Boulevard
- Suite 110, Durham, NC 27703, 919-558-2711
  • Resources for Seniors (Wake County), 1110 Navaho Dr.  – Suite 400, Raleigh, NC 27609, 919-872-7933

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