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Reported December 20, 2012

Caregiver Health Hazards

(Ivanhoe Newswire) - Caregivers spend an average of 25 hours a week taking care of an ill family member’s needs with little to no time for themselves. But the loving act can be bad for their body and mind. Ivanhoe has tips to help those who are helping others. 

Pictures help Kathy Beechem remember the good times. At just 60, her husband Pete was diagnosed with a brain tumor and given two years to live.

“Right then, in that split second, it just changed everything,” said Kathy.

So she took on a new role: caregiver. More than seven million people like Kathy provide full-time care to their loved ones in the U.S. Research shows it can have serious health consequences. 40 to 70% of family caregivers have significant symptoms of depression.

Kathy tells Ivanhoe that, “To share with others what was going on ended up being a great source of support for us.”

Kathy’s using her own experience to help others. She says educate yourself, but let the person you’re caring for know you respect their wishes too.

“I really never took the decision making away from Pete,” explains Kathy.

Be your loved one’s advocate by keeping a medical journal, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Family caregivers often wait four to five years before reaching out. When Alzheimer’s took control of former president Ronald Regan, his daughter Patti Davis took control of the situation.

“It starts to feel like this defines you,” said Patti Davis, Ronald Regan’s daughter.

Results from a nearly three decade long program shows taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s could shorten your life-span by as much as four to eight years. Patti started her own Alzheimer’s support group to help her deal with her dad’s condition.

"I always say to people in this support group, 'you need travel buddies',” Davis tells Ivanhoe. 

Kathy quit her job and traveled around the world with Pete and says the most important thing is to never lose hope.

Kathy remarks, “I think the fact that I had that belief and that hope made me a much better caregiver.”

The value of the services family caregivers provide for free is estimated to be more than 375 billion dollars a year. That’s almost twice as much as is actually spent on homecare and nursing home services combined.

For additional research on this article, click here.

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