Tag Archives: caregiver health

Caregiver, Heal Thyself!

“Caregiver, Heal Thyself!”…. it’s at twist on the biblical adage and my motto for 2016. We are the first line of defense for our loved ones. But too often we get injured or run down and fail to care for our health.

Caregiver Heal Thyself

Warm winter = thin ice

In 2015, I suffered a dislocated shoulder, chronic lower back strain, and plenty of wrist pain. Early in the year I got a mysterious skin infection which went away after I was treated with anti-biotics. My doctor suspected that I contracted MRSA from my mom. He didn’t reveal his theory until it healed because he knew I would panic. After the infection disappeared, he explained that many older people who have spent time in a hospital, residential care, a rehabilitation center, or a nursing home will carry the MRSA bacteria. They can bring it home and transmit it through skin-to-skin contact. My little scar still reminds me of this extremely painful episode.

If we stay aware of our health problems, we can do more about them. For years I’ve used yoga as a tool for healing muscular pain as soon as I notice it. I have a subscription to an online service called YogaGlo.  I’m not sure this would work for #caregivers who have never taken a #yoga class. However, if you have a yoga studio nearby, you can get some basic instruction first. Yoga is a tremendous aid for maintaining your health. YogaGlo costs $18 a month and can use the service from a computer, iPad, or smart phone — or all three. If you get your TV reception through a ROKU box like I do, you can also watch it on your TV. Cable subscriptions and satellites are too expensive. Since we rarely have time to watch TV, we like ROKU much better.

Online exercise channels are great for caregivers, especially if your loved one needs 24 hour care like my mom does. When you’re feeling worn down, you can choose a session to start healing a specific body part without ever leaving the house. My online yoga classes are as short as 5 minutes — or as long as two hours. I try to do a 20 minute class before I lift my mom out of bed in the morning. It makes me much more limber and it warms up my shoulder before I stress it again.

I don’t know why we get so careless with our health. Most of us know the terrible statistics about caregiver illnesses. These items, quoted from Caregiver.org should scare you a little:

  • Caregivers suffer from increased rates of physical ailments (including acid reflux, headaches, and pain/aching), increased tendency to develop serious illness, and have high levels of obesity and bodily pain.
  • Studies demonstrate that caregivers have diminished immune response, which leads to frequent infection and increased risk of cancers.
  • Caregivers exhibit exaggerated cardiovascular responses to stressful conditions which put them at greater risk than non-caregivers for the development of cardiovascular syndromes such as high blood pressure or heart disease.

I can’t bear to mention any more. We know this job is hard and we know it hurts. But we must remind ourselves that we also have choices about how we treat our bodies. Make 2016 the year when you make #caregiver health a priority.

 

Dementia and Planning

Planning is not my strong suit, but you have to look ahead when someone in your family has dementia. Unfortunately my forecasts are as dicey as the weatherman’s. Whether you listen to scientists or the Farmer’s Almanac, predictions about the future are often incorrect.

Dementia and Planning

Because my mother’s condition continues to defy expectations, I have to look for stability elsewhere. We live in a place filled with natural wonders so I observe changes in the plants and animals near our home. The first leaves have dropped from the giant elm in our yard. A flock of wild turkeys chattered in a field as I drove home this evening. These signs tell me that summer is drawing to a slow close. Some of the beauty around our home is about to wither. Nature provides me with reliable information that I can actually use.

Doctors and nurses try to do this, too. They use their experience, observations and research to help us understand what’s most likely to happen next. The trouble is that variations of dementia are hard to diagnose and changing symptoms bring one set of problems after another. My mother also seems determined to live through this disease her own way. The same person who appeared so feeble nine months ago, now looks charged up and cheerful.

I love seeing my mother strong again. But sometimes her strength makes me more aware of my own weaknesses. As the evenings grow cooler, I ask myself if I have the vigor to make it through another winter while continuing to provide good care. My memories of last January weigh on me like nightmares from a battle front. Summer has been so peaceful by comparison. I don’t want it to end.

Many caregivers out there face worse challenges than I do so I try to focus on the positive elements of our situation. I chose to carry out this tour of duty and it has been rewarding in a hundred beautiful ways. My battle scars are piling up, however, and I don’t want to become one of those caregivers who lets their health crumble while they support someone else. The only actions that really help us are the affirmative ones we take to make sure we can stay strong. I made an appointment for a physical this week. This is about as far as my planning goes at this time. What plans have you made to ensure a healthy future for yourself?