Opinion: Washington’s failure making us sick
Given the wealth of research linking chronic daily stress to long-term health, it begs the question: is our country’s failure to support caregivers making Americans sick? Is caregiver support a health problem?
According to Dr. Allison Applebaum, a clinical psychologist who runs a Caregiver Support Clinic in New York City, âI have lost count of the number of caregivers in my clinic who have also become patients. Insomnia rates are skyrocketing among caregivers. chronic depression, chronic anxiety. âAs Applebaum told us,â People are so busy balancing their jobs and caring for their loved ones that they don’t have time to take care of themselves. They often neglect their own medical screening and care.
The toll of caregiving without job or income security can lead to new health care costs for the caregivers themselves. Applebaum experienced this by taking care of his own aging father while working full time. As she says, âI took him to the emergency room and contracted a bacterial infection. I hadn’t slept and had a chance to rest or take care of myself, and ended up being hospitalized. My immune system I couldn’t fight it because I was so exhausted. ”
As Applebaum says, âIf I could have taken more paid time off to care for my father, I probably wouldn’t have been hospitalized for my own illness. A few extra weeks, or even a few extra days, of paid family leave could have avoided a hefty hospital bill.
When we assess the cost of new legislation, we have to look at the big picture. Investments in care today represent a down payment for tomorrow. We need to move away from policy silos into categories such as âsocialâ, âeconomicâ and âhealth careâ and take a holistic view of our families, our health and our economy as we develop policies to support caregivers and promote the health of the nation.