Caring for a loved one could shorten your life: Husband shares story

KSN Digital Extra

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – November is National Family Caregivers Month and national statistics show caregivers have an increased chance of passing away before the person they’re caring for.

Stats show that 70% of caregivers over 70 will die before the person they’re giving care to. A person of any age who is the caregiver has a 30% chance of passing before the person to whom they are caring for.

An 89-year-old Wichita man says when his wife was diagnosed with cancer they decided he would be the one to care for her.

“If that’s what it took, then that’s what it took,” said Jake Lewis, Lakepoint resident. “It was rough because I’m getting up there where I can’t hardly take care of myself, you know.”

Lewis says his children became concerned about him because his wife needed around the clock care. They worried his physical and mental health were at risk and encouraged the couple to move into an assisted living home.

“When we decided to come out here, I lived in my house for 48 years, and we put it up for sale one day, and it sold the next and that was what God wanted me to do,” said Lewis.

Lewis’ wife passed in August of this year after succumbing to cancer.

“She said, I love you, that was the last thing she said,” said Lewis.

Lakepoint Wichita’s Life Enrichment Director says she sees a lot of residents like Lewis, who try to care for their loved ones. It’s a full-time job and that’s why Lakepoint has three different shifts for employees.

“We always say you can either be the loved one or the caretaker,but not both,” said Vickie Strawder, Lakepoint Life Enrichment Director.

Strawder says she sees an array of behaviors emerge when caregivers take on too much.

“You’ll hear them raise their voices at them when they wouldn’t normally do that, you see them becoming tired, they get sick more often, it just physically and mentally, it takes a toll on anyone that tries to do that,” said Strawder.

Many people think nurses are the most typical forms of caregivers, but they aren’t the most common form.

“Most of the time caregivers end up either being a spouse or a child or another close relative,” said Bethany Anderson, Mental Health Association Senior Director of Aging Services.

Anderson says there are two most common factors that lead to a caregiver passing before the person they’re caring for. The first one being chronic stress.

“Having the high levels of stress for long periods of time can cause depression, anxiety and a host of other problems that if left untreated can manifest into physical conditions.” said Anderson.

The second most common factor is self-neglect.

“Self-neglect among caregivers is very prominent,” said Anderson. “They often neglect doctors appointments, they might have some underlying health conditions that they might just blow off that they don’t often really think of as being a big deal, which actually end up being chronic conditions and often times lead to their early death.”

She says the number one piece of advice to remember when care-giving is self-care.

The Mental Health Association offers a free senior companion program for those who are providing care. For more information on this program, click here.

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