THURSDAY, Sept. 22, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Caregivers living in unsafe neighborhoods are at greater risk of having poor blood sugar control, new research suggests.
The study of 147 people found that those who cared for elderly family members with dementia and also felt that they lived in an unsafe neighborhood were at increased risk for poor blood glucose control and related health problems.
Each fact on its own did not impact glucose levels, the Duke University researchers note. It took the combination of those two factors to influence glucose problems.
"I think it's important that health care providers take into account not just single risk factors but the joint impact of multiple factors on health. We typically focus on issues such as depression or anxiety among caregivers, not on the combination of factors. But that's not the way the real world works," Dr. Redford Williams, a Duke professor of psychiatry and one of the study authors, said in a prepared statement.
This is the first study to investigate the combined effect of neighborhoods on the stress already experienced by people who are caregivers to people with dementia.
"We know that caregivers are under a significant burden of stress," added study lead author Beverly Brummett, assistant research professor in medical psychiatry at Duke.
It's not clear how unsafe neighborhoods might influence blood sugar. "We didn't find any direct evidence that it was a caregiver's perception of stress that mattered, or things like [lack of] social support," Brummett said. "Although we couldn't verify this, we think that people who fear crime in their neighborhood may be less likely to leave the house for health care, [to] pick up prescriptions or even to get some exercise," she added.
"We have to find ways to ensure that caregivers who live in neighborhoods they perceive as dangerous have adequate health care access and follow-up. There may also be strategies for helping them cope better with their concerns about crime. Any change that helps people deal better with health issues would be beneficial," Brummett said.
The findings appear in the September/October issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.
The Family Caregiver Alliance has advice about self-care for caregivers.