Caregiver Stress Weakens Immune System

A study by scientists at Ohio State University suggests that caregiver stress weakens the immune system by affecting a critical pathway in the immune system in the long term. This results in chronic health problems like heart disease, arthritis, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. They also found that reduced immunity brought on by caregiver stress continued even long after they ceased to be Carers. So Care-giving may have important implications for future health and costs of provision from a service perspective.

So called Mind/body medicine has been shown to be particularly beneficial in this respect. Researchers have found that stress hormones are associated with particular unhealthy emotions. These hormones affect systems and organs throughout the body. For example, stress related to hostility and anxiety can result in disruptions in heart and immune function. Similarly, depression and distress may diminish the body’s natural capacity to heal. In contrast, emotional expression that encourages openness and active coping with problems helps stabilize the immune system.

Early Intervention is key – The question is “who cares for the Carer” and undertakes this intervention and what can be done to protect or improve their health?

Reducing Caregiver Stress

The answer lies in empowering the individual by showing them ways to take care of themselves, coping strategies, making it ok to ask for help when needed from friends, family and outside agencies and also to determine when care in the home is not the best solution or a mixed package of provision may be the answer. Individuals in these kinds of situations feel less stressed if they feel they have some control over their own lives and circumstances.

See details on Carers Workshops.