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STUDY: Family and Unpaid Caregivers Sacrifice Personal Well-Being

March 2, 2016

Family and unpaid caregivers who provide “substantial” levels of care are more likely to experience physical, emotional, and financial difficulty than those who provide less intensive care, according to a new study.

Researchers looked at two previously published surveys of family and unpaid caregivers to draw their conclusions, which were published February 15 on the website of JAMA Internal Medicine.

They found that, of the estimated 14.7 million family or unpaid caregivers in the U.S., nearly half (6.5 million) provide what they termed “substantial help with health care” — i.e., assistance with care coordination and medication management.

Those caregivers spent an average of 28.1 hours a week providing care. They were also significantly more likely to report having emotional and physical problems, and much less likely to report their health as being “excellent” or “good,” than caregivers who had less extreme responsibilities.

Caregivers providing substantial care were also much more likely to experience a drop in work productivity (if they work outside the home) and less likely to participate in their desired amount of social and leisure activities.

Jennifer L. Wolff, the study’s lead author and an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said that the survey results speak to the lack of preparation most family and unpaid caregivers have when it comes to negotiating the complicated U.S. long-term care system.

“There is no silver bullet easy solution to simplify the management of meeting complex care needs,” Wolff told Reuters on February 15.

“This is an issue that is experienced by individuals but is the result of the fragmented and complex health care system and long-term care system that families often are left navigating without any formal preparation,” she added.

— by Matthew Ozga

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