The Effects Of Caregiving On Stress And Immune Function

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Caregiving In addition to disasters, chronic stress can also arise from changes in employment, social relationships, or financial condition. One well-accepted model of chronic stress is the burden of providing long-term care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Learning, memory, and cognitive function progressively decline in these patients, sometimes even to the point that the patient may no longer recognize his or her spouse. Many Alzheimer’s patients require constant care for years before they die. From the time of diagnosis, about half of the patients live for another seven to eight years, which creates a tremendous amount of strain on the caregiver who watches a loved one continue to deteriorate. Caregiving also makes it difficult to establish or continue supportive social relationships outside of the home and may create changes in employment or financial status. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser and her colleagues (1991) studied the effects of caregiving on stress and immune function and found that caregivers were more depressed and had poorer immune function than a control group of people with similar age, sex, and martial status. The effect of chronic stress on the immune system also likely accounted for why caregivers were also less likely to produce a sufficient number of antibodies to protect them against the flu virus after receiving a flu vaccination (Kiecolt-Glaser, Glaser, Gravenstein, Malarkey, & Sheridan, 1996). Marriage Although being

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