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Family Caregivers Need Break to Combat Stress

In recent years, about 40 million Americans have been caregivers for family members. (pixabay)
In recent years, about 40 million Americans have been caregivers for family members. (pixabay)
June 9, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. - While caring for senior family members is a rewarding process that brings families together, the demands of constant support can be stressful. In recent years, about 40 million people across the nation provided unpaid care to family members. Often, caregivers simply need a break. This summer, AARP Oregon is touring the state and listening to caregivers to find out how to do just that.

Jon Bartholomew, AARP Oregon government relations director, said family caregivers provide unpaid care valued at $5.5 billion a year in Oregon.

"One thing that helps these folks is to be able to just take a day off and do things that they want to do and be themselves and be their old self," he said. "And that reduces the stress."

In recent years, about forty-million Americans have provided unpaid care for family members.

Bartholomew said there are a number of both formal and informal ways caregivers can take breaks. For instance, other family members can help with care. Senior day centers also are an option, although those can be hard to find.

"There's less than 20 adult day centers in the entire state, and only one that I'm aware of east of the Cascades," he added.

Long-term care facilities are another option for caregivers seeking short respites. However facilities often want people to stay for years rather than days. A downside for both long-term facilities and day centers is that they can be costly.

Stress also can lead to higher health-care costs for caregivers. In 2015, the Alzheimer's Association found that there was a $110 million increase in health-care costs to caregivers of someone with Alzheimer's or dementia. Bartholomew said the effects sometimes can be even more devastating than higher costs.

"A doctor I spoke to said that with the patients he sees with Alzheimer's disease, all too often he said the family caregiver die first from something like a heart attack, which is stress related," he said.

AARP Oregon will be in cities across the state, talking to family caregivers throughout June and July. RSVP on AARP Oregon's website.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR