Caring For The Caregiver - Ask The Pharmacist

Oct 14, 2013
The stress of caregiving can have a negative effect on a person’s health. Pharmacist Paul Reyes provides tips for caregivers to stay well themselves.
  • Depression
  • Caregivers

Being a caregiver can be a rewarding, but also time-consuming and stressful job. Those in the “sandwich generation” are especially challenged as they care for an elderly relative while also raising a family.

Approximately 42 million Americans provide unpaid care to someone ill, disabled or aging. As the Boomer generation ages, the demand for caregivers will increase.

Health Effects of Caregiving

New research released today from Express Scripts reveals that the responsibility and stress associated with caregiving could have a negative effect on a person’s health. Treatments for conditions where stress is often a factor – depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and ulcerative diseases – are higher among caregivers. The data also show that caregivers are less adherent with their therapy, particularly antidepressants, which patients need to use as prescribed for successful treatment.

Just as flight attendants instruct passengers to put on their own oxygen mask before assisting a travel companion, it’s important for caregivers to make their own health a priority. Unhealthy caregivers cannot provide optimal care, and the stress related to their role as a caregiver could worsen existing health conditions.

Tips to Keep Caregiver's Own Health on Track:

Don’t Ignore Depression: Familiarize with signs of depression, such as continuous low mood, low self-esteem, lack of motivation, neglecting hobbies and unexplained aches and pains. If you think you may be depressed, seek medical attention quickly. Care-giving support groups or professional counseling can also help.

Employ Healthy Habits: Daily exercise and a consistent good night’s sleep can reduce stress and improve your health. If time is a concern, try simply building in 5-10 minutes of physical activity into your day and move up your bedtime by a few minutes each night.

Make Personal Time a Priority: Set aside time everyday to socialize with family and friends, read or meditate. If your loved one is on Medicare or Medicaid, a case worker can tell you more about respite resources for extended time-off.

Use Online Resources: At Express Scripts, our website and mobile app can make managing prescriptions for you and your patient easier, and reduce the administrative burden associated with care-giving. Home delivery can be a convenient way to receive medications and ensure you don’t miss a dose, and our specialist pharmacists who understand your unique needs can provide additional support and counsel for you and your loved one.

Don’t Do It Alone: Identify others – family members, friends, neighbors, your religious community or local civic organization like the Boy and Girl Scouts of America – who can provide support. The Department of Health and Human Services has an online resource to help connect caregivers with locally available support services.

At Express Scripts, we understand the critical role caregivers play in the health and wellness of others, and how that responsibility can impact their own health. We want to make sure caregivers have support and assistance to make their job easier and stay healthy themselves.

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