I was walking out of the doctor’s office when I saw an elderly gentleman, about 160 pounds with a blue sweater and blue jeans on. Over his jeans he was wearing knee braces. I assumed his knees were bad because I observed him lift his 200 pound wheelchair bound wife into the car. I wanted to go to him and say, “Please get help and take care of yourself!”
As a geriatric nurse for the past 10 years, assisting elderly people to age in place I have seen the stress caregiving causes the spouse. There are many reasons for this, but one of them is a protein called Interleuken 6 (IL-6) which is a substance secreted from the cells to regulate our immune system. IL-6 is beneficial for when we have an infection, but not if we have high levels on a constant basis. IL-6 rises as we age and that causes chronic inflammation in our bodies that leads to cancer, osteoporosis (which is thinning of the bones, and dementia.
A study was done of married elderly couples. In one group e a spouse was a caregiver, in the other group the spouse was not a caregiver. Due to the stress of caregiving the spouse who was a caregiver had four times more IL-6 than their non-caregiver counterparts. Caregiver spouses are less likely to visit the doctor, have increased mental health problems and do not get enough sleep. This study supports what I see in the field, that caregiving spouses have more health problems in general.
In the United States there are close to 30 million spousal caregivers. These caregivers need to be taken care of. Another study was done of spousal caregivers to figure out how to lower one’s IL-6. One group received nutrition information and another group received phone calls helping them to do 30 minutes of aerobic exercise four times per week. The group that exercised had less IL-6 in their bodies.
Working in exercise can be challenging for spousal caregivers and that is why it is important to hire caregivers to give the spousal caregiver some much needed respite. It costs more in the long run to not hire help because if the spouse is unable to remain the caregiver , then alternative arrangements will need to be made for the disabled spouse. Make sure your loved one, who is a caregiver has time to exercise because exercise matters.
Kathy Cocks, RN
During the recent and ongoing Corona Virus pandemic, so many things have changed in our lives! Schedules, entertainment options, who we congregate with, where we go, what size groups we gather in, what we wear(masks, gloves, etc.) and so much more! One thing that stands out so much though about this time is that it has highlighted for nearly everyone just how much our family matters!
Family matters because of the deep love and concern most family members have for each other. We're concerned for each other's health and safety, emotional and mental well being, and even just making sure we all have the basic necessities of life during these crazy, uncertain times!
Family matters because of the impact those loved ones have made and continue to make on our lives. This especially true for our parents, grandparents and other elderly family members who have spent a lifetime investing in the care and nurture of their younger family members. Now as they grow older, and their need for care increases, family matters should "matter" most to those who care for these elders.
Member agencies of the Oklahoma Partnership for HomeCare are designed to assist you and your loved ones in this journey! Navigating the uncertain and sometimes confusing waters of home health care is less difficult when guided by an experienced and educated professional in the field! You can contact any one of our the fantastic member agencies of the OPHC for advice, direction and assistance with their services for your loved one!
Visiting Angels of Tulsa
Visiting Angels of Bartlesville
Visiting Angels of SWOKC