Tag Archives: caregiver health

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:

  • FLOSS YOUR TEETH!

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.

Caregiver Identity

Caregiver identity is subject to change — especially if you spend years caring for a #dementia patient. Some days I barely recognize myself as the person I was at the start of my mom’s illness. This week I plan to resurrect my “old self”, if only for an hour or two. On Tuesday I’m leading a Girl Scout workshop about voting.

Caregiver Identity

As the Presidential election approaches, I recall how much I used to enjoy researching the candidates and talking about political issues. Maybe it’s me — or maybe it’s the candidates — but today I’m turned off by the constant media coverage. However, I still think it’s important for young people to vote. I want to help them learn how to register. I also want to teach them how to evaluate candidates and understand their platforms.

Back in the old days, I was immersed in civic issues. The declining quality of public schools disturbed me so I got involved in education reform. These days, my caregiver identity casts a shadow over other concerns. I still worry about schools, but now I have a stronger interest in health care and services for the elderly. I want to help the Girl Scout group understand how the Presidential election can influence all these critical matters.

Me Before You

My life was totally different before I became my mother’s #caregiver. I traveled across the country and around the world as I pursued my writing career. Freedom of choice was important to me. The limits of my choices were set by my bank account and my physical stamina. Physical stamina is still an important issue, but for completely different reasons. Most of my daily energy is spent supporting my mom. I lift her, hold her, and help her all day long — and during the wee hours.

Sometimes I miss my old life, but I recognize that being a #caregiver has made me a more compassionate, loving person. When your world is focused on someone else’s well-being, you can’t avoid being changed by the experience.

Every now and then I long to feel some fragment of “old me”: racing to catch a plane or planning an international trip. This week I’ll give myself the treat of one brief hour as “old me” during the #Girl Scout workshop. Can you still remember what it was like to be the “old you”? Is there one thing you could do this week to let your former self out of the box?