I’m hearing more and more about how caregiving affects the caregiver’s health. This is true for caregivers across the lifespan whether they are parents of special kids, “well-spouses”, or involved in eldercare.
We all know that there can be a physical toll, for example back problems if you’re lifting your care recipient. National Family Caregivers Association has a newsletter on practical tips on how to take care of yourself while caring for another (like how not to pull out your back!) And we also all know there is an emotional toll and stress affects health. There are also publications on the website like avoiding medication errors, how to talk to doctors or deal with hospitalization, your own health, etc. Membership is free to family caregivers.
I was also concerned when I heard a few years back that research showed cells called telomeres actually show premature aging (average 8 years) in caregivers. More recently, the Good Housekeeping magazine May issue had an article that showed telomeres also affected the immune system and development of disease (including cancer) in caregivers.
Ok, this blog is for “hopeful” not “hopeless parents” so optimistically thinking I haven’t depressed anyone too much and you’re still reading because there are things you can do.
How to take care of yourself (so you can care for your child):
- Make sure that you go to YOUR doctor appointments for regular physical checkups, dental, vision, etc. We get so caught up in our kids’ appointments, we often neglect our own.
- Do preventive things like getting a flu shot, take vitamins, etc.
- If you’re depressed (up to 75% of caregivers have this happen)-get help. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
- Relieve stress through exercise, respite, etc. Remember not to feel guilty for taking breaks because it’ll give you more energy to be a better caregiver.
- Get support. The latest study showed that support from peers actually helped heal the adverse effects on telomeres! Parent-to-Parent matches trained volunteer parents to families of children with the same condition. Friends Health Connection matches people (for those of you with older kids) with the same condition as well as caregivers.
National Family Caregivers Association www.thefamilycaregiver.org (800)896-3650