Author Archives: Colleen Davis

Caregiver Life Span

Research studies warn that stress can shorten the caregiver life span, but our lives are not one dimensional. Most of us did many other things before we got involved in #caregiving. We can also play different roles in the future, especially if we protect our health. Here are some ways we can add back the years that #caregiver stress might steal.

caregiver life span

Increasing Caregiver Life Span

Most of these suggestions are drawn from an article called Live Long and Prosper, written by Alyssa Giacobbe and Jessica Migala, published in Women’s Health, Jan/Feb 2017. Although the following ideas appeared in a magazine targeted to women, their life extending power can help #male caregivers, too. Some recommendations seem obvious. If you want to be healthier, eat nutritious foods and eliminate soda pop from your diet. Other suggestions promote health benefits you might have overlooked. Start with the basics:

  • Take in more Vitamin D by drinking fortified milk and eating egg yolks — it could add 5 years to your life.
  • Walk just 10 minutes a day (or more if possible) to add 1.8 years to your life. Walking helps you ward off illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.
  • Volunteering your time — whether it’s at a local school or an animal shelter — can add between 4 and 7 years to your life. You may not have time to donate right now because #caregiving demands your full attention. But if the day comes when your loved one must move to a different care setting, dedicating time to a social cause can be therapeutic and beneficial to your health.
  • Eating six servings of leafy greens and two cups of berries each week can add 7.5 years to your life.

Less obvious ways to add healthy years

  • Owning a dog can add TEN years to your life. Dogs need to be walked, so they help their owners stay fit. They also give you unconditional love, which helps lower blood pressure and risk of depression.
  • Build a group of friends that you socialize with at least once a week. For some mysterious reason, having six friends is the magic combination.
  • Developing a sense of purpose in life can increase your life span by 8 years. Some of us find that caregiving brings tremendous meaning and purpose to our lives, but we may only play this role for a limited time. Staying healthy as we age means finding purpose across the entire scope of our lives as family and other relationships change.

And now, a surprising and simple habit that can add six years to your life:


Don’t ask me how flossing increases your life span. Studies simply find that people who floss regularly have lower rates of heart disease.

I feel like a wrung out dish rag at the end of most days, but I believe I could do most of the things on this list. I’m not ready to get a dog, but I’m happy to walk my neighbor’s rescue pup whenever she asks, and I love berries.

Weather Disasters and Caregiving

Weather disasters can turn caregiving into a nightmare. Normal days are hectic, but hurricanes, floods, and blizzards push us to our limits. My #caregiving routine sank into chaos last week when #blizzard2017 struck our area,  The blizzard dumped two feet of snow here in Northeast PA. We were stranded.

weather disasters caregiving

During #WinterStormStella we had to boost the heat in the house. My mom has advanced #dementia and she’s very sensitive to the cold. On a normal day she needs at least one blanket. But she needs much more when the temperature drops below 20 degrees. We have a coal stove that heats our home well, but the coal is delivered in 50 pound bags. Besides lifting them, I have to haul out the ashes first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Coal heat is cozy but it leaves me with a nagging back ache.

Then I also had to lift my mom by myself. Our normal helpers could not get here. A small lane leads to our driveway in the woods. We share this road with several other neighbors. Together we all pay someone to plow the lane and clear our driveways. However, the plowman couldn’t get here until the main roads were cleared. It’s nearly impossible for the state crews to keep the roads open when so much snow falls so fast. Our township police declared a state of emergency and would not allow people to drive. That left me — and my mom — all alone.

Bad Weather = havoc For caregivers

During weather disasters, caregiving can be overwhelming. We did have two bits of good luck. First, I raced to the grocery store and pharmacy before the snow began. When #Stella hit, our pantry was full. I had enough supplies to keep mom clean and comfortable for several days. Second, the power lines did not break. We had electricity during the whole ordeal and I’m very thankful for this. If we lose power, we also lose water because ours is pumped up from a deep well. The pump can’t function without electricity. Caring for an incontinent person is always difficult. Take away the water supply and you’ve got a serious health risk.

Even with critical “amenities” like heat and water, I was miserable during the storm. My body ached from the loads I had to carry. The loneliness and isolation felt like extra boulders on my back. I was so happy when we were finally able to have visitors. My mom couldn’t say so but I know she felt relief, too. Though it’s now behind us, the experience has me thinking about #caregivers who lived through #Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters. I find myself wondering how caregivers in war torn countries like Syria and South Sudan manage their constant burdens. To them I send heartfelt wishes for peace and global understanding of the challenges they face on a daily basis.