THURSDAY, Nov. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Many family caregivers of
U.S. veterans sacrifice their own health and jobs to care for their
loved ones and experience high levels of stress.
Even so, 94 percent say they're proud of their role, says a new
"The care of a veteran is unique, and in many ways these caregivers are facing even greater challenges than other family caregivers," said Gail Hunt, president of CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), which released the study to coincide with Veteran's Day.
"This report serves as a reminder that we need to come together to make sure caregivers have adequate resources and support," Hunt said in an alliance news release.
A previous NAC study found that more than 10 million people in
the U.S. are caring for a veteran, from those who served in World
War II, Korea and Vietnam up to the present wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan, and nearly seven million of them are veterans
themselves. There are more than 23 million U.S. veterans, according
to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Compared to caregivers nationally, those who look after veterans
are twice as likely to be a caregiver for 10 years or longer (30
percent vs. 15 percent), and are twice as likely to be in a
high-burden caregiving role and to consider their situation highly
stressful, found the new
Caregivers of Veterans -- Serving on the Homefront study.
It also found that 96 percent of family caregivers of veterans
are women and 70 percent provide care for a spouse or partner. Most
of these women are sole providers of care. Only one-third said they
have received help from paid caregivers.
A major source of caregiver stress and burden is veteran's
health conditions, which often included depression and anxiety (70
percent), post-traumatic stress disorder (60 percent) and traumatic
brain injury (29 percent).
About 30 percent of caregivers of veterans also care for
children under age 18, which can cause problems. Of caregivers with
children in the home, 69 percent said they spend less time with
their children than they would like, and 57 percent said their
caregiving or the veteran's condition contributed to emotional or
school problems among their children or grandchildren.
Most caregivers said there's been a decline in their healthy
behaviors, such as exercising (69 percent), good eating habits (56
percent), and having regular doctor and dentists appointments (58
percent). Many also reported weight gain/loss (66 percent),
depression (63 percent), stress or anxiety (88 percent), and sleep
deprivation (77 percent).
The study also found that 43 percent of caregivers provide more
than 40 hours a week of care. Of the 68 percent who had jobs when
they started caregiving, 47 percent had to stop working or take
early retirement and 62 percent had to reduce their work hours.
The study was funded by United Health Foundation.
"The family caregivers who serve our country's veterans are making huge sacrifices in terms of their own health, careers and home life," Dr. Reed Tuckson, foundation board member and executive vice president and chief of medical affairs, UnitedHealth Group, said in the news release.
Despite their willingness to serve as caregivers, he said, "it
is incumbent upon all of us to help them find support and solutions
to preserve their own health and well being, as well as that of the
veteran. It is important that relatives, friends, and neighbors
seek out opportunities to provide respite and other supportive
services to these caregivers."
The Family Caregiver Alliance explains how
caregivers can look after themselves.