NBC News reports that in a truly cruel twist of fate, America’s caregivers neglect their own medical needs in order to help the patients for whom they are responsible.
And the trend isn’t limited to just professional caregivers. Surveys have estimated that roughly 40 million American households contain at least one person caring for a family member. That adds up to tens of millions of Americans who don’t receive crucial preventative care due to limited time and resources:
“Caregivers don’t go to the dentist; they don’t get mammograms or annual checkups,” says Melissa Gartenberg Livney, a clinical psychologist with the PENN Memory Center at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “So they get sick.”
Even worse, Livney says, “there’s some evidence that this kind of stress can contribute to the onset of dementia” which is why she and others are trying to encourage caregivers to get help, to find ways to take breaks, and to make and keep their own doctors’ appointments.
The saddest irony of all is the fact that by not receiving preventative care, the caregivers themselves are adding to the rising cost of health care. While Obamacare encourages preventative treatments as a means of containing medical costs, that won’t make much of a difference for people who just don’t have the time to go to a doctor.
Which is also why proposals to cut Medicaid funding should be heavily scrutinized. Medicaid is already underfunded despite being the only means of health coverage for America’s poor and disabled populations. And professional caregivers — who often earn minimum wage for the work they do — have proven themselves to be exceptionally dedicated to their patients, even weathering natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy in order to keep caring for the sick, elderly, and disabled who need them.