Betty hasn’t been to the doctor for a mammogram or pap smear for five years — since before her husband Frank developed Alzheimer’s disease. As a caregiver, she lives in a state of chronic stress. She’s tired all the time, doesn’t sleep well and eats far too much. Her diet, which consists mainly of comfort foods these days, has become devoid of fruits and vegetables. She doesn’t exercise at all anymore. She can’t remember the last time she actually felt well.
The Family Caregiver Alliance estimates that 44 million Americans are caregivers. And the Alzheimer’s Association, in its latest Facts and Figures report, states that 15.5 million of those are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.
What many of these caregivers don’t realize is that carrying out their duties may be creating chronic stress, which, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance, can lead to a steady and significant decline in physical and mental health. What’s more, the Alliance says that caregivers’ health status worsens as the patient’s condition declines.