Episode 4

In this episode, APA CEO Norman B. Anderson, PhD, examines the unrecognized psychological, social and health needs of the nearly 66 million Americans who are caregivers to a family member.



Norman Anderson: Hello, I'm Dr. Norman Anderson, CEO of the American Psychological Association. Welcome to "This Is Psychology."

Today, I'd like to talk about the nearly 66 million Americans who are acting as caregivers to a family member and the psychological and health challenges they face. Although caregiving has been traditionally regarded as an informal aspect of health care, many policy makers now acknowledge that family caregivers provide essential services and in many cases, they operate as front-line health service providers.

According to a 2010 National Alliance of Caregivers report, nearly 80 percent of the long term care in the United States is provided by a family member. But the psychological, social and health needs of the caregiver are often not recognized.

The reality is family caregivers experience considerable burden, stress and disruption of their own well-being and social activities. Research shows that they are actually at risk for emotional and physical health problems, including depression, chronic pain and substance abuse.

A 1999 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that highly strained family caregivers are at increased risk for early death compared to non-caregivers. Other studies indicate that caregivers are at risk for coronary heart disease and stroke, particularly under conditions of high stress.

The negative effects on caregivers don't stop at their health. Caregivers, particularly younger caregivers, often experience disruption to their education — putting school on hold or dropping out entirely — which can impact their future career and earnings.

That being said, many family caregivers report positive experiences from caregiving, including a sense of giving back to someone who has cared for them, the satisfaction of knowing their loved one is getting excellent care as as well as personal growth and increased meaning and purpose in life.

A 2010 APA task force report called on psychologists and other mental health professionals to be alert to the health risks for family caregivers and to acquire the skills, training and community knowledge necessary to help people who are providing in-home care to a loved one.

If you are a caregiver, or know someone who is, visit our website at apa.org, and search under caregiving for more valuable information and insights.

Thank you for watching "This is Psychology."