If you are a caregiver, you have the hardest job in the world. The responsibility of taking care of someone else and in particular someone you love does not come without a price to pay. The emotional and physical toll endured can leave one susceptible to any number of health conditions. As a senior or baby boomer the odds are stacked even higher. Research has found that 63% of caregivers over the age of 65 are at higher risk of dying in comparison to others of the same age who are not caregivers. The combination of prolonged stress, depression, physical demands of caregiving and lack of sleep can affect your overall health sometimes leading to early death. At Mom’s Care Plan we hear from countless families caring for family members with various types of Dementia, Alzheimers, Parkinson's, ALS and Huntington’s Disease to name a few. On a daily basis, we hear how a caregiver has gained or lost a great deal of weight, is spending more time at home – isolating themselves because it takes too much preparation or energy to go out. Caregivers spend so much time taking their loved one’s to the doctors that they neglect themselves and their own appointments. Clinical depression is higher than 46% and yet many do not receive advice or care from a medical professional. Instead excessive use of alcohol or drugs are often the emotional band-aid used to cope.
There isn’t much you can do to change a chronic diagnosis or the predictable path of more & more time and care needed as things progress. But you can take precautions to safeguard your health and sanity. Think to yourself, what will happen to my loved one if something happens to me? Here are some first steps in the right direction:
1)Make an appointment to get a wellness check up and keep it.
2)Utilize any resources for time off whenever possible; day care, temporary assisted living stays, church organizations or in home services
3)When family or friends offer to help – say YES!
4)Exercise – walking 15-30 minutes just a few days a week is not only good for your body but helps clear your mind
5)Reduce Stress – Prayer, meditation, yoga – Even 10 minutes a day will make a world of difference.
6)Sleep – Rest - Our bodies need to replenish and repair.
7)Join a Support Group – sharing with others that are going through the same journey is comforting and brings knowledge
Starting with even one of the above recommendations will have you on the road to a better, more healthier you. And as a bonus, caregiving will be at it’s best.