Posted by Teresa Bitler
According to a study released at the International Stroke Conference, gender plays a role in a caregiver’s health. The study revealed that women, especially those caring for their spouses, were much more likely to develop serious health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
Women Are More At Risk
In general, female caregivers are more at risk for serious health conditions than their male counterparts. They report higher incidences of depression and anxiety and lower levels of well-being and life satisfaction. Female caregivers are also more likely to experience chronic disease, an increased risk of cancer, diminished immune system, and physical ailments such as acid reflux and headaches.
Studies indicate that the increased health risks may be associated with how women are wired. Female caregivers tend to have more of an emotional attachment to caregiving than their male counterparts.
Marriage Impacts Stress And Health
Providing care for your spouse can also put you at a higher risk for developing serious and chronic health conditions. The study released at the International Stroke Conference found that spousal caregivers and caregivers of the opposite sex of those they were providing for tended to experience a greater decline in health.
Spouses are particularly prone to burnout and health risks because caregiving can cause significant changes in the dynamics of the marital relationship. Plus, since you live together, you don’t get breaks from caregiving.
The study also indicated that the women who cared for their spouses tended to be at greater risk than men who cared for theirs.
Other Factors Compound The Risk
Some female caregivers are more susceptible to developing health issues than others. The study found other factors influenced the risk, including:
• Length of caregiving
• Difficulty of caregiving tasks
• Perceived impact on caregiver’s life
What You Can Do
Although female caregivers are at greater risk for developing health issues, providing care for a stroke survivor can have an impact on men, too. The National Alliance for Caregiving states that nearly half of the caregivers they surveyed indicate that their health has gotten worse as a result of caregiving.
Take these steps to alleviate stress and protect your health:
• Ask for help from family and friends
• Join a support group
• Take time for yourself to visit with friends or enjoy a hobby
• Arrange for respite care
• If married, focus on the positive aspects of caregiving on relationship
• Schedule regular physical check-ups for yourself
• Exercise and meditate