Elderly Caregivers and Stress

Have you ever noticed how your body reacts to stress? New research shows that the body’s immune system is seriously weakened by stressful events.

William’s caregiving responsibilities aren’t stressful today — but that wasn’t always the case. For seventeen years, William took care of his wife, who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease.

“Just all the things of daily living, dressing, she couldn’t do finally. Just taking care of those things.”

Doctors say everyday stresses such as caregiving can take a heavy toll on your immune system. In fact, research shows that elderly caregivers are not as likely to reap the same benefits of flu shots as elderly non-caregivers.

“Not just for the elderly, but stress in general definitely had an impact on the response to the vaccine. So the agents that these vaccines are designed to protect against, basically you might not have the full protection that you would need.”

Although William didn’t get any serious illnesses while caregiving, respiratory infections like pneumonia and flu are major causes of death among the elderly.

“It should raise the consciousness of the public about these issues so at least they’re knowledgeable about things they might pursue to make themselves less at risk for an infection or even worse.”

While you can’t always avoid stressful situations, you can avoid being stressed-out. One important factor in fighting stress is having people to turn to for support. Doctors also recommend simple lifestyle changes such as getting proper nutrition and sleep.

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