Friday, March 19, 2010

Caring for the Caregiver

Did you know that 21 percent of people in this country, that’s just over 44 million people, provide care for someone over the age of 18? Caregivers come in all shapes and sizes, from the woman caring for her aging father to the man regularly helping out a neighbor. From cooking meals to running errands to bathing dressing and feeding loved ones, caregivers can have extremely taxing responsibilities. Little surprise that care giving can take a toll on a person’s body and mind.

Research shows that between 40 and 50 percent of caregivers may experience clinical depression. Caregivers are also at risk martial problems, alcohol and substance abuse and even have an increased risk of dying earlier.
Caregivers are also less likely to practice the healthy habits that are needed to keep them functioning optimally. The are less likely to sleep, eat healthy, exercise, rest or keep medical appointments.

If you are a caregiver or you know someone who is a caregiver I want you to think about this. Ion an airplane, if an oxygen mask falls down in front of you, what are we all told to do? We are always told to put the mask on before we help anyone else. . Taking care of your own health is the most important and most often forgotten parts of care giving. Taking care of yourself will help you to be a better caregiver...

There are many things you can do to improve your health and better manage it. I’m going to give you 3 things today that I think are particularly important.

Reduce stress
Care giving is stressful period. But stress can really take its toll so here are a few things to help keep that stress in check:
Recognize warning signs early. These might include irritability, sleep problems, and forgetfulness. Don't wait until you are overwhelmed.
Take action. Situations you can change- do so those that you can’t leave alone. Make sure you do stress reducing activitie4s daily. Things like exercise, gardening, meditation, prayer, having coffee with a friend.

Ask for help
You must ask for help. Telling people that you are fine when you are not does you no good. The truth is, there are gong to bother people are willing to help, and in fact, may even feel left out because you haven’t asked them to help.

One way to make asking for help easier is to make a list of what you need writing down what needs to be done can help you be more organized and it can also help you determine what’s most important. It also allows you to have one less thing to think about. When someone asks what they can do to help, you can check the list, and hand off a task.

Also- remember - home health aides can come for an afternoon or check out what the local senior center has to offer. More and more communities are recognizing are stepping up and helping caregivers out.

Get some exercise
The final thing is to exercise- I know you are saying that you don’t have any additional time. But folks it’s the healthiest thing you can do...
Exercise promotes better sleep, reduces tension and depression, and increases energy and alertness. If finding time for exercise is a problem, incorporate it into your daily activity.

Walking 20 minutes a day, three times a week is very beneficial. If you can't get away for that long, try to walk for as long as you can on however many days you can. Work walking into your life. Walk around the mall, to the store or a nearby park. Walk around the block with a friend.

In the end- these efforts will not only help you feel better and be healthier, but they will give your body and mind the strength to do often seemingly impossible tasks that you do as a caregiver.

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