ST. LOUIS — According to a new report released today by Express Scripts, the stress associated with providing unpaid care for a sick or disabled adult can create additional detrimental effects on the caregiver's health, leading to a 29% greater use of anti-anxiety medications compared with non-caregivers.
The research finds use of medications to treat conditions for which stress is the common denominator, including high blood pressure, depression, anxiety and ulcers, is higher among caregivers, with the widest difference seen in the use of medications to treat anxiety.
"An estimated 42 million Americans serve as a caregiver to a relative or friend, and that number will grow significantly as the boomer population ages," said Bob Nease, PhD, chief scientist at Express Scripts. "Care-giving is a noble and often rewarding endeavor, but it clearly takes a toll. By understanding more about caregivers and the challenges they face with their own health, our specialist pharmacists — with unique expertise in one of 15 therapeutic areas — can further tailor their support and interventions to help caregivers take better care of themselves."
The study pairs an analysis of Express Scripts' prescription drug claims data with a telephone survey of more than 12,000 commercially-insured individuals ages 18 to 65. The research also suggests:
- Adherence rates for caregivers who use an antidepressant – a medication patients must take as prescribed to see a benefit — are relatively worse than for non-caregivers (67% vs. 73%). Across all health conditions, 64% of caregivers are adherent to their medication therapy, compared to 68% of non-caregivers.
- Caregivers are more likely to rate themselves in poorer health compared to non-caregivers (15% vs. 12%), and a higher proportion of caregivers report being unhappy (5.3% vs. 3.5%).
- Only one-in-five caregivers reside in the same household as the patients in their care. More than half (52%) live within 15 miles of their primary care recipient, and another 27% live more than 15 miles away.
- Roughly one-third provide care for more than one person, and two-thirds of respondents provide care for a parent, older relative, sibling or friend as opposed to a spouse or adult child.
- At the time of the survey, approximately 36% of caregivers had increased the amount of care they provided in the past month; 15% had decreased the amount of care. Care-giving is a long-term endeavor: 8.5% of caregivers reported they were new to the role and only 3.8% said they stopped providing care in the past month.
- The average age for caregivers is 52 years old, and most are female (63% female vs. 37% male).
"The good news for caregivers is the ever-increasing availability of tools — auto-refills for prescriptions, longer-day supplies of medication, mobile apps and websites that offer alerts, prescription histories and adherence reminders — that can help them stay on track with their own health decisions, while also reducing the administrative burden that comes with being a caregiver," continued Nease.
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