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Caregivers—you probably know several. You may be one. They are people caring for loved ones, usually family members. Today family caregivers provide an estimated 80% of all community care, according to the American Medical Association. Caregiving can be one of life’s most rewarding experiences: a time to be with your loved one and perhaps deepen or improve your relationship. It is an opportunity to really make a difference in someone else’s life and can be a significant period of personal and spiritual growth.
Researchers know that caregivers often neglect their own well-being and that their health is typically worse than the general population’s. The rewarding experience of helping another person sometimes replaces the priority of caring for oneself. Caregivers tend not to exercise, eat, or sleep well. And they don’t visit their own doctors. The fact (and irony) is that a caregiver cannot give the best care when overwhelmed or ill. For yourself or a caregiver friend, here are steps to stay healthy:
Establish a good relationship with your primary care physician.
Your doctor should know about your situation. He or she not only can monitor your health, but can be an advisor or liaison to helpful services. Also connect with the patient’s doctor and health plan. Caregivers often manage all phases of their charges’ health care, from medications to questions of coverage. Know how to get answers fast. For example, CHP’s Medicare Advantage programs are completely local, a plus for direct communication about Medicare (see the Advantage Primetime article).
Eat well and exercise.
Don’t fall into the snack (or fast food) trap. Keep nutritious food on hand, and keep preparation simple. Promise yourself 15 minutes of exercise a day, even if it’s walking around the house or in place. You can do that! (And you’ll soon manage more.)
Take time off.
It may not be easy, but giving yourself a break—even for an hour—is a powerful reviver.
Find Out About Resources, and Use Them.
Capital Health Plan’s Member Services can provide excellent help, and the following two umbrella organizations can supply extensive lists of resources for caregivers, from adult daycare to support groups. You are not alone!
2-1-1 Big Bend
850-224-633 or dial 2-1-1
Elder Care Services, 850-921-5554