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Providing Support To Caregivers

More than 65 million Americans serve as unpaid caregivers for loved ones

CHICAGO, Nov. 12, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In America, more than 65 million people provide care to loved ones who are chronically ill or incapacitated. Unpaid family caregivers represent 90 percent of the long-term care provided in the United States. With longer life expectancies and advancements in medicine, the number of people in caregiver roles will continue to grow. Caregivers are a very important part of a healthcare team, but they may also face stress and personal challenges that come with caring for a loved one.

"Caregivers are faced not only with the responsibility of caring for their loved one, but many also work fulltime jobs and have other family responsibilities," said Diane Breslow, MSW, LCSW, coordinator and social worker for Northwestern Medicine® Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorder. "Stress from caring for a loved one can manifest in a number of ways ranging from financial burden, exhaustion, household disruption, social isolation, and even personal health crises."

At Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Breslow leads a support group for caregivers of people with Parkinson's disease. Each month the group comes together to discuss different challenges they face and offer support and tips to one another.

"Parkinson's is a chronic disease that impacts the whole family; the demands on the care partner continue over time and increase as the disease progresses," explained Breslow. "Depression and stress are realities for people in this situation, so it's very important for caregivers to recognize their own unique reactions and to seek support and guidance accordingly."

Breslow recommends caregivers understand and prioritize their needs, using the following categories as guidelines: stress management; time management; decision management; health management; community resources; and emotional support and support groups.

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