Serious injury as a result of medical negligence or a car accident takes a significant toll on a spouse-caregiver or family members who are responsible for day-to-day care of the injured person. The struggle that family members go through can lead to depression, anxiety, divorce and estrangement between family members. The financial costs of caring for a severely disabled family member contribute to emotional distress. In addition, there can be a physical component for family members who care for an injured loved one. It is not uncommon for caregivers who must move, turn, toilet and bathe a family member who has suffered a catastrophic injury, to suffer their own injury. As an injury lawyer handling catastrophic injury cases, I have seen all of these resulting in spouses or adult children caring for someone who has sustained stroke, brain injury, paralysis, an amputation or burns. But a recent article published by MedPage Today points out another risk: stroke.
Why does a Spouse-Caregiver Face an Increased Risk of Stroke?
The study found that spouse-caregivers strained by their duties had an increased risk of suffering a stroke. The risk was nearly double that of spouses who were not actively providing care to a spouse. Stress has long been implicated in increased blood pressure (hypertension), and hypertension is known to increase the risk of stroke. So, it stands to reason that a stressful caregiving environment would increase the risk for stroke.
What Resources are Available for Stressed Spouses?
The limited resources available for stressed spouses include:
- Physician assessment
- Respite care
- Support group
Spouse-caregivers should share their concerns with their own physician, so they can be assessed for depression and stroke risk. Individual and family counseling can also help. When available, spouses should take advantage of respite care, where a professional caregiver spells the spouse for several hours. When I obtain a life care plan to assess the economic costs of a catastrophic injury, the life care planner factors in the cost of respite care when the injury victim resides at home.
In addition, there are many support groups for particular types of serious injury. Since March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, and we are known as brain injury lawyers, I’ll use traumatic brain injury support groups as an example. In Ohio, the Brain Injury Association of Ohio holds multiple meetings at various locations statewide: http://www.biausa.org/Ohio/support.htm.
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