Caregivers are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, depressed immune function and even hospitalization. Care giving places a burden on your health.

caregiver in hospital.1If you are a caregiver, you know that this act of love has its costs. You stand to forfeit up to $650,000 in lost wages, pension and social security. Add to that is the personal cost to your well being, as your new demands leave you less time for your family and friends. You may give up vacations, hobbies, social activities and compromise the   quality of your own life.

caregiver planningSolo care giving compromises your ability to nurture yourself and others, so let’s take care giving out from behind closed doors. For your sake and the sake of those who count on you, please get some help. Caregivers are competent people who feel that they should be able to do this job. Yet, many soon find themselves unprepared and ill-equipped to manage the sometimes daunting tasks, such as managing a complex medical regimen or remodeling a house so it is wheel-chair accessible or even finding someone to stay with their loved ones so they can go out to a movie without worrying their relatives will fall on the way to the fridge.

inspirational quotes.2Instead of reaching out, caregivers become isolated. Many who assume the care giving burden fit the profile of the giving family member, who does not want to trouble others with their problems. Some fear the consequences of disclosing their new demands to coworkers or employers. Caregivers are further challenged by the cultural conspiracy of silence. Our youth-centered society turns a blind eye to the unpleasant and inevitable reality that all of us age and die. This leaves both caregivers and care recipients unprepared. Look no further than the path of Hurricane Katrina to witness the consequences of a lack of planning.

inspirational quotes1What can you do? Start talking about “what if” and make a plan.

1. Start with yourself. What will happen to you and your family if you become disabled or die unexpectedly? Do you have disability insurance? Do you have a will? Do you have a living will, and have you identified the person who will make the medical choices you would make if you are not in the position to do so?

2. Approach healthy family members. You can say, “I hope that you live many happy years in which you enjoy all of the pleasures you worked so hard to create.” Have you thought about what would happen to you in the event that you cannot live independently any more? What would happen if some medical event befalls you? Who would make your medical choices?

3. Look into community resources that support care giving. A day program, for example, helps your loved one by providing social connections with peers. Your community may even offer transportation to and from the program. Getting out of the house offers the additional benefit of getting bodies moving. Socializing and exercise are the two most powerful interventions that help your loved ones stay at their best.

Caregiver accepts help

4. Make specific suggestions to friends, family members and neighbors who want to help. You may even want to keep a “help list.” When they say, “Let me know what I can do,” you have a response: “Can you take Mom to her physical therapy appointment this week?” “When you’re at the store, can you pick up some apples and strawberries?” “Can you watch the kids for an hour so I can get to the gym?” Your well intention friends will appreciate specific ideas about how they can help.

5. Take care of your health. Get good nutrition, plenty of sleep, and regular exercise to stay in top health. Wash your hands regularly to prevent colds and flu. Manage your stress with laughter, a prayer or even a deep breath. Nourish your soul with a taste of activities that recharge your batteries such as writing in your journal or gardening. Finally, talk to your doctor if you feel depressed or anxious.

inspirational quotes.3The best strategies for effective care giving include preparation, acts of self-care and reaching out for help. That begins with the courage to start talking openly about care giving so you do not neglect your own health while caring for your loved ones.

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