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Caregivers Face Multiple Strains Tending Older Parents

Study confirms health decline in middle-aged adults juggling chores for 2 lives

MONDAY, Sept. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Middle-aged adults who regularly help their elderly parents get by experience a drop in health and well-being in their own lives, a new study shows.

The study, published earlier this year in the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, found these adult children were often juggling multiple roles each day, sometimes causing conflicts in roles or feeling overloaded.

"The accumulation of small and large daily stressors such as work deadlines, PTA meetings, supporting family and friends as well as providing routine assistance to a parent living outside one's house can build up," study leader Jyoti Savla, assistant professor of human development and gerontology at Virginia Tech, said in a university news release. "Sooner or later, they can spill over into other areas of life with negative mental and physical consequences. Days when help is provided to parents are more stressful than days when it is not," Savla said.

Salva's team studied diaries of the individuals who provided help to parents, more than half of which did so on two or more days each week. They found several factors, such as having a spouse and higher education, could decrease the conflict and demands on time. Also, those who believed in personal growth, mastery and self-acceptance experienced fewer negative consequences from helping their parents.

"By building on an understanding of individual's experiences, this approach could make daily life easier for older adults and the individuals who support them and prevent the depletion of care resources," Savla said.

More information

The AARP has more about managing caregiver stress.

SOURCE: Virginia Tech, news release, Sept. 22, 2008

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