We've talked about change in the caregiver situation this month.
The fast change (such as a stroke, or a fall with a broken hip) that blindsides you and changes everything overnight.
The slow change (such as the progression of Alzheimer disease) that is insidious and catches you unawares as it sneaks up on you and changes the person you love.
Fast or slow, change takes some getting used to. The problem is, there is often no time to get used to it before decisions need to be made. Then, there is more change.
But what if the change is in you?
17-35% of caregivers rate their health as fair to poor. 11% of family caregivers report that their physical health has deteriorated. Caring for persons with dementia is reported to impact a person's immune system for up to three years after their caregiver experience ends. 1
These are statistics, but there is no doubt that caregiving of someone close to you can affect your physical and emotional health. How can you minimise this?
Many of the strategies we have talked about are effective. Get support, either from family, a support group or a friend. Ensure you have someone to talk to, and set up systems to take regular (daily if possible) breaks. Make healthy lifestyle choices--get exercise, eat as healthy as possible.
Visit your doctor regularly. An annual physical is a must, and communicate with him/her about your caregiver situation. There may be supports or government programs you aren't accessing.
If you as caregiver gets sick, what happens to the one you are caring for? Do you have a backup plan?
One of the most important tasks of the caregiver is to care for themselves.
Any guesses regarding how often that doesn't happen?
Be good to yourself. Someone you love is depending on you.