From Neurology Now: When a caretaker dies

Sometimes family caregivers die before their patients. My recent article in Neurology Now offers help on preparing for that worst case scenario.

As I wrote:

More than 65 million people—about 30 percent of the population—currently provide full- or part-time care for a friend or family member, according to 2009 figures from the National Alliance for Caregiving. But that number is inexact and could be much higher, says Lisa Winstel, chief operating officer of the Caregiver Action Network, a national nonprofit organization that provides resources for an estimated 90 million family caregivers. And as the nation ages, the number of caregivers will increase.

In the natural order of life, caregivers aren’t supposed to die before patients. From the outside, the relationships are viewed as one healthy person taking care of another person who is chronically ill, disabled, or aging. The focus is on the patient’s needs, which is why the sudden death of a caretaker can be so devastating for families and patients—even though it’s well known that many caregivers tend to neglect their own physical and mental health, sometimes fatally. In fact, spousal caregivers ages 69 to 96 have a 63 percent higher mortality rate than noncaregivers in the same age group, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance.

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