Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Protect Your Health

Everyone is telling us to take responsibility for our own health. We hear it on TV and read it in magazines. Prevention is the message of the day.

Unfortunately, family caregivers as a rule do not always do a good job of taking care of themselves. We are always putting our loved one’s health and well being first. After that there is not much time or energy left for ourselves.

The research is clear! The extreme stress that many family caregivers experience has been shown to affect our immune systems making us more prone to chronic illnesses ourselves. It can cause premature aging and in some cases result in premature death.

  • If you are run down, tiring more than usual, will you be able to provide good care?
  • If you have a cold or the flu, will your loved one catch it from you?
  • If you become depressed will you be able to make good decisions, will life become unbearable?
  • If you are not well, who will fill your shoes, whether temporarily or permanently?

These are not questions to be taken lightly. Your own good health is the best present you can provide to the person you care for.

As caregivers it is important we recognize and not ignore the physical and emotional symptoms which may impact our own health and well being.  We need to guard against caregiver burnout and avoid becoming overly tired and exhausted which can reduce our own body’s ability to ward off illness. 

It is important to remember to create balance between caring for others and caring for ourselves.  But how?  You begin by believing – truly believing – that protecting your health is an absolutely critical thing to do for yourself and your loved one. You may not be able to do this easily, especially if guilt tends to get in your way; but, it is vital that you try.

  • Take a daily vitamin supplement
  • Get exercise — make it a priority for both your mental and physical well-being.
  • Get regular check-ups and do not ignore possible symptoms of ill health.
  • Take a break from caregiving – respite time is crucial.
  • Get a flu shot – more information here
  • Watch for signs of depression – more information here
  • Stay involved in hobbies
  • Laugh with a friend

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