At-Home Exercise Helps Caregivers Care for Themselves
reveals that the program can "successfully encourage a stressed and
burdened population to engage in physical activity at levels sufficient
to produce health benefits," said lead author Cynthia M. Castro, from
the Stanford University School of Medicine.
The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging.
impact of caregiving...is likely due, at least in part, to the reduced
probability that caregivers engage in preventive health behaviors such
as regular physical activity," Castro explained.
previous research has shown that caregivers are usually prone to
problems such as depression, sleep disturbances, compromised immunity,
elevated blood pressure and interpersonal strife.
she and her colleagues recruited 51 women, each of whom lived with and
cared for a demented relative at home. The women were at least 50 years
of age, did not engage in regular physical activity and provided at
least 10 hours of care every week, Castro said.
team said each participant received an in-person counseling session
with a health educator who provided information and instruction about
how to work up to a regular schedule of three or four 30 to 40 minute
exercise sessions at home each week. During the next 12 months, each
caregiver/counselor team stayed in regular contact through telephone
calls and mailed activity logs, according to the researchers.
found that although the caregivers provided an average of 71 hours of
care every week, 70 percent of them adhered to their exercise programs
for a whole year. During this time, the amount and intensity of their
exercise, as well as their knowledge of physical activity,
significantly increased, according to the study results.
By the end of
the year, the women also felt significantly less depression and stress
than before they began the exercise program; although their actual
burdens did not decrease, their perception of how burdened they felt
had greatly improved, the study reported.
the team also worked with a similar group of 49 caregivers who
participated in an at-home nutrition counseling program instead of the
exercise program. Because exercise is known to improve psychological as
well as physical well-being, the researchers said they expected to see
fewer benefits among the nutrition group participants.
women engaged in the two programs were equally likely to stay with the
programs and experienced similar improvements in their psychological
well-being, according to the findings.
results confirm that long-term health promotion programs are feasible
for a highly stressed and burdened population such as dementia family
caregivers," said Castro. "The majority [of women overall] were
actively involved in their home-based health promotion program for a
minimum of nine to 12 months, with relatively few dropouts compared
with other community-based activity intervention trials."
much of the credit for the programs’ benefits is due to the
frequent contact between counselors and caregivers. The women in the
exercise group who had the most frequent contact with their counselors
also tended to adhere better to their program, she added.
additional social support and reduced isolation [the contacts provided]
were possibly sufficient to produce the improvements noted in
depression and stress," Castro said.
Copyright 2002 Health Resources Publishing