News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Coping with long-term effects of caregiving

"Everyone has been or will be a caregiver at some point in their lives, and everyone will be a care recipient at some point in their lives."

Dr. Richard Schulz knows this: He has devoted his career to studying the effects of disabling late-life illnesses on patients and their families and to exploring strategies for mitigating the adverse health effects of caregiving. He will share his insights on Tuesday, January 23, at 7 p.m. at the next lecture in the Frontiers in Science series, presented by the Sisters Science Club at The Belfry.

"More than 17 million family and friends provide unpaid care to older adults," Dr. Schulz adds, including himself. "I've had multiple episodes of caregiving experiences with family members. These experiences led me to appreciate the distinction between the pragmatic challenges of caregiving -for example, the day-to-day tasks that need to be performed to support another person - and the independent effects of being exposed to the suffering of a loved one."

Dr. Schulz, who grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, earned his academic degrees at Dartmouth College and Duke University. Studying for his doctorate in social psychology at Duke in the 1970s, he noted that the study of aging was relatively unexplored. Intrigued, his own research began to focus on the psychological and physical health effects of chronic illness and disability on older adults and their families.

Now recognized as the nation's preeminent researcher on the effects of chronic stress exposure associated with family caregiving, Dr. Schulz is helping others understand how families and patients cope with chronic illness, disability, and end of life, and has shed new light on the effects of bereavement as well.

The real-life application of his research has been tested in unique longitudinal studies, including the Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer's Caregiver Health trial, a national multi-site randomized controlled trial testing social and behavioral interventions for caregivers of dementia patients.

Finding out what works - and what doesn't - is vital to the development of national and local policies that support health care for aging adults, Dr. Schulz points out.

A Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry, Emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Dr. Schulz will speak on "Family Caregiving in the US: Research, Policy, and Future Directions" at the January 23 event. Social hour begins at 6 p.m. with light fare, beer, and wine available for purchase. Admission is $5 at the door; teachers and students are admitted free. The Belfry is located at 302 E. Main Ave., Sisters.


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