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Caregivers

A caregiver gives care to someone who needs help taking care of themselves. The person who needs help may be a child, an adult, or an older adult. They may need help because of an injury or disability. Or they may have a chronic illness such as Alzheimer's disease or cancer.

Some caregivers are informal caregivers. They are usually family members or friends. Other caregivers are paid professionals. Caregivers may give care at home or in a hospital or other health care setting. Sometimes they are caregiving from a distance. The types of tasks that caregivers do may include:

  • Helping with daily tasks like bathing, eating, or taking medicine
  • Doing housework and cooking
  • Running errands such as shopping for food and clothes
  • Driving the person to appointments
  • Providing company and emotional support
  • Arranging activities and medical care
  • Making health and financial decisions

Caregiving can be rewarding. It may help to strengthen connections to a loved one. You may feel fulfillment from helping someone else. But caregiving may also be stressful and sometimes even overwhelming. You may be "on call" for 24 hours a day. You may also be working outside the home and taking care of children. So you need to make sure that you are not ignoring your own needs. You have to take care of your own physical and mental health as well. Because when you feel better, you can take better care of your loved one. It will also be easier to focus on the rewards of caregiving.

Dept. of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a rare, degenerative brain disorder. Symptoms usually start around age 60. Memory problems, behavior changes, vision problems, and poor muscle coordination progress quickly to dementia, coma, and death. Most patients die within a year.

The three main categories of CJD are :

  • Sporadic CJD, which occurs for no known reason
  • Hereditary CJD, which runs in families
  • Acquired CJD, which occurs from contact with infected tissue, usually during a medical procedure

Cattle can get a disease related to CJD called bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or "mad cow disease." There is concern that people can get a variant of CJD from eating beef from an infected animal, but there is no direct proof to support this.

NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Degenerative Nerve Diseases

Degenerative nerve diseases affect many of your body's activities, such as balance, movement, talking, breathing, and heart function. Many of these diseases are genetic. Sometimes the cause is a medical condition such as alcoholism, a tumor, or a stroke. Other causes may include toxins, chemicals, and viruses. Sometimes the cause is unknown.

Degenerative nerve diseases include:

  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Friedreich ataxia
  • Huntington's disease
  • Lewy body disease
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Spinal muscular atrophy

Degenerative nerve diseases can be serious or life-threatening. It depends on the type. Most of them have no cure. Treatments may help improve symptoms, relieve pain, and increase mobility.

Depression

Depression is a serious medical illness. It's more than just a feeling of being sad or "blue" for a few days. If you are one of the more than 19 million teens and adults in the United States who have depression, the feelings do not go away. They persist and interfere with your everyday life. Symptoms can include:

  • Feeling sad or "empty"
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Overeating, or not wanting to eat at all
  • Not being able to sleep, or sleeping too much
  • Feeling very tired
  • Feeling hopeless, irritable, anxious, or guilty
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Depression is a disorder of the brain. There are a variety of causes, including genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Depression can happen at any age, but it often begins in teens and young adults. It is much more common in women. Women can also get postpartum depression after the birth of a baby. Some people get seasonal affective disorder in the winter. Depression is one part of bipolar disorder.

There are effective treatments for depression, including antidepressants, talk therapy, or both.

NIH: National Institute of Mental Health

End of Life Issues

Planning for the end of life can be difficult. But by deciding what end-of-life care best suits your needs when you are healthy, you can help those close to you make the right choices when the time comes.

End-of-life planning usually includes making choices about the following:

  • The goals of care (for example, whether to use certain medicines during the last days of life)
  • Where you want to spend your final days
  • Which treatments for end-of-life care you wish to receive
  • What type of palliative care and hospice care you wish to receive

Advance directives can help make your wishes clear to your family and health care providers.

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