Caregiver Stress: It's Real
Caring for aging parent takes toll
The daily stress of caring for an aging parent takes its toll—on the caregivers.
Jyoti Savla, assistant professor of human development and gerontology at Virginia Tech, has led a team of researchers that systematically studied diaries that recounted the stresses of daily life in conjunction with helping an older parent. Results clearly suggest a downward path of health and well-being among midlife adults helping an elderly parent.
“The accumulation of small and large daily stressors such as work deadlines, PTA meetings, supporting family and friends as well as providing routine assistance to a parent living outside one’s house can build up,” said Savla. “Sooner or later, they can spill over into other areas of life with negative mental and physical consequences. Days when help is provided to parents are more stressful than days when it is not.”
Half of all individuals who provided help to parents did so on two or more days each week. Most individuals who provided help to parents were also juggling multiple roles each day, which could lead to conflicts between the roles or to feeling overloaded. In addition to helping parents, most individuals spent nearly five hours on work-related activities and two hours on work in their own households, with about 10 hours for sleep, leisure, and exercise.
Savla and her colleagues found that several personal characteristics could decrease the experienced conflict and demands on time, such as having a spouse and higher education. Those who believed in personal growth, mastery, and self-acceptance experienced fewer negative consequences in providing help to parents.
Programs that specifically target the everyday care events that are stressful for baby boomers are likely to be most beneficial.
“By building on an understanding of individuals’ experiences, this approach could make daily life easier for older adults and the individuals who support them and prevent the depletion of care resources,” said Savla.
The data came from the National Study of Daily Experiences (NSDE), a national daily diary study, which is a part of the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS) carried out under the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Network for Successful Midlife Development.
Published November 12, 2008
Silver Planet Feature Writer
Reviewed By: Shehnaz Shaikh, MD