Sunday, July 12, 2009

Caretaker Stress Affects Health of Partner with Heart Failure

From an article by Nicole Stodard in EmpowerHer

A recent study that appears in the July/August 2009 issue of Heart and Lung affirms in a broad sense what anyone in a committed relationship, particularly a marriage, already knows from experience: one spouse’s mental or physical health ailments can, and often do, tax the other spouse.

This study is particularly concerned with the implications of this dynamic when one spouse has some form of heart failure (HF), a chronic progressive condition that occurs when the heart muscle can’t pump enough blood through the heart to meet the body’s blood and oxygen demand.

The study found that a spouse’s distress had substantially greater impact on the HF patient’s overall health and the course of the patient’s illness than the reverse scenario. Considering the fact that 5.7 million Americans have HF and well over half a million new cases are diagnosed each year, this is concerning.


wellspouse said...

Here's my comment, that I left on the EmpowHer blog site:

"Spouses of HF patients should take heed and be proactive about their own mental and physical health issues so that they do not put the already ailing hearts of their partners in even greater jeopardy. "

While in principle, this statement seems to be common sense, it can actually cause a great deal of guilt and further stress for spousal caregivers of HF patients, if they only focus on the second part, about putting the ailing hearts of their partners in greater jeopardy.

As President of the Well Spouse Association, I feel there needs to be more emphasis on, and resources devoted to maintaining the health of spousal caregivers -- who all too often do not recognize their need for regular respite breaks and stress-relieving activities apart from their caregiving activity. A Feb. 2006 study by Christakis et al. in the New England Journal of Medicine, of spousal couples over age 65 has shown that after the death of a chronically ill or disabled spouse the mortality of the spousal caregiver greatly increases, to as much as more than 20% in the case of mental illness for the ill spouse -- compared to the mortality rate of couples in their age grouping where neither has a longterm disease or condition.

Cockroach Catcher said...

Thank you for being part of the Tour de Grande Rounds.

The Cockroach Catcher

sheilak said...

I am new to this site but I am very glad to have found it. I feel very alone and may be just saying what I need to say will help me. My husband is suffering from HF and a multitude of other problems associated with this. He is 48 years old and I am only 46. I am trying to take care of him plus keep working and the bills paid. Very hard. I feel so much stress every day. And I certainly can't share this with him.

Barbara Kivowitz said...

Welcome Sheila. Glad you found us. I hope you'll find that writing it out will help.

One thought I had - I don't know your relationship with your husband, but I do know that often the well spouse underestimates the ill spouse's ability to cope with hard conversations. If you are gentle and compassionate to him and to yourself in how you talk about your stress, perhaps he can offer you some comfort. And it may be a comfort to him to be useful and help problem solve.

I know when my husband broke down sobbing in front of me one day, I was glad to be the one to put my arms around him and tell him it would be ok, we'd work it out.

And if this is not possible, I do hope you find someone to talk to - family member, friend.

also - check out the website:
You may find resources there.

Wishing you peace.