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Study suggests many caregivers not taking care of themselves

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Posted at 7:35 PM, Feb 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-18 15:49:24-05

SALT LAKE CITY – Caregivers fall short when it comes to taking care of themselves, that’s according to a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Nearly 8 million elderly Americans are living with the help of family or friends, and almost half of the older adults have dementia.

Researchers say many caregivers feel overwhelmed and are too embarrassed to ask for help.

Liz Garcia-Leavitt is a social worker at the Utah Center for Alzheimer’s Care, Imaging and Research or CAIR.

“Most of the work I do is working with caregivers and helping them understand that it's not a failure on their part to accept help," she said.

Garcia-Leavitt gives caregivers support, whether it’s learning how to manage medications, coming up with a treatment plan, or counseling.

“If that's not happening, it increases a great deal of stress on the families,” said Garcia-Leavitt.

Researchers found about half of caregivers spend about 28 hours a week helping their loved one, and they’re five times more likely to give up what they enjoy doing.

“You can't lose your own friendships, you can't put off your own medical treatments and turn yourself 24 hours a day 7 days a week to care-giving,” said Garcia-Leavitt.

Ellen Payzant’s husband Tom is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

“This is a man that never uses an er, or an um. He can speak off the cuff,” Payzant said.

Her biggest struggle is managing all of his needs. CACIR has been a huge relief.

“They really want to make sure you know what's available in the entire community, and there's a lot," she said. "Have you got your will in order? Have you got your care in order? Do you have people to help you?”

Another luxury she’s grateful for is her family.

“Our kids are wonderful, my daughter in particular will say, 'Now Mom, you need to do something for you, we'll take Dad to the movies,'” Payzant said.

You can read the study here.