New Tips ... Caring for the Caregiver

Caregivers are often the last to ask for help, but the millions of family members and friends who care for ailing family members and friends are themselves among the neediest.

Founder of The CareGiver Partnership
 “Below is one of many personal caregiving situations our customers face each and every day”, said Lynn Wilson, Founder of The CareGiver Partnership. Their names have been changed, but Oliver and Margaret’s story will make you aware that you are not alone.
Oliver and Margaret's story...

Oliver and Margaret have been married for 61 years - they are both in their 80's. Over the years, Margaret developed circulatory issues due to complications from diabetes. This resulted in her becoming wheelchair bound. In order to provide care for Margaret, Oliver retired from his job at a state agency and took a job as a security guard working the night shift so he could be home with Margaret during the day. Eventually he felt he should be with her all the time.

Margaret and Oliver
Margaret was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and had surgery. The surgery went as well as could be expected and they are both so grateful to all the medical personal for the special care Margaret received before and after her surgery.

Over the past year and a half, we've talked with Oliver about once per month to monitor all the products Margaret uses and to make sure she always has a supply on hand. Each time we speak with Oliver, he puts Margaret on a speaker phone so she can hear and be involved in the conversation.

Oliver is not alone. Nearly forty percent of family caregivers spend more than 40 hours a week providing care. Nine in 10 family caregivers are in fair/poor health - suffer from depression, and eight in 10 of those with depression report that caregiving had made their depression worse.

It is for this reason it is so important for a caregiver like Oliver to take some time to care for himself so he can continue to provide care for Margaret.

The best present you can give your loved one: Your own good health. Unfortunately, family caregivers as a rule do not always do a good job of taking care of themselves. We are always putting our loved one's health and well being first. After that there is not much time or energy left for ourselves.

The research is clear! The extreme stress that many family caregivers experience has been shown to affect our immune systems making us more prone to chronic illnesses ourselves. It can cause premature aging and in some cases result in premature death.
  • If you are run down, tiring more than usual, will you be able to provide good care?
  • If you have a cold or the flu, will your loved one catch it from you?
  • If you become depressed will you be able to make good decisions, will life become unbearable?
  • If you are not well, who will fill your shoes, whether temporarily or permanently?

Take a daily vitamin supplement. Being on the go often means we don't get our five-a-day fruits and vegetables. Taking a daily multivitamin supplement can fill in those gaps.

Brush and floss your teeth. When you are oh, so tired, it is understandable that you just may want to crawl into bed. Consider brushing and flossing your teeth right after dinner, when you aren't as wiped out.

Exercise - even a little. Exercise is one of the first things to go in a busy caregiver's schedule. Physical caregiving can certainly provide some "incidental" exercise, but it is wise to try to get some regular exercise as well. It's a great way to reduce stress and ward off depression. Could you allocate 10 minutes three or four times a week to take a walk? Even power walking through your house and up and down some stairs will work. But don't beat yourself up if some weeks it doesn't happen.

Find a caregiving buddy. Having another family caregiver to talk with can go a long way toward lessening your isolation. A buddy or a support group does just that - supports you, helps you think things through, helps you find new resources, and reminds you that others are experiencing similar problems too.

Get away from your caregiving to have some fun at least once a month, but ideally more than that. Whether it is dinner with friends, a manicure or a massage, doing something for you will make you feel so much better.

Add some spirituality to your life. Whether it is through reading poetry or going to church, we all need to renew our soul and our connection to something larger than ourselves. Try to do this as often as you can.

Get a flu vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends family caregivers get an annual flu vaccination to protect themselves and their loved ones. Our chronically ill loved ones are considered high risk. Since we are out and about mingling with others, we could bring the flu home and infect our loved ones; and because they depend on us for care, keeping us flu-free is considered really important as well.

Have an annual physical. The last place you want to spend time is another doctor's office, but taking the time for a check-up once a year could save you countless hours in doctors' offices later. Small problems that go undetected and untreated can turn into big problems that threaten your life. Make it a point to tell your doctor that you are a family caregiver and how that is affecting you - your mood, sleeping and eating patterns, your back, etc.

Have a real respite. Going to a movie is great, but to get a real respite that renews your spirit and your soul it is important to have a change of venue. A week or two away would be fantastic, but is totally unrealistic for most of us. Even a weekend may be hard to pull off, but the effort it takes to make it happen can pay huge dividends. We all need a break from our loved ones once in a while - and they need a break from us as well. 

About The CareGiver Partnership. The CareGiver Partnership helps caregivers and their loved ones with answers to their caregiving questions, including information about home health care products and supplies, from our Wisconsin-based team of Product Specialists who are all current or former caregivers. The company’s Web site provides the largest online library of resources on subjects most important to caregivers — from arthritis to assisted living, and Parkinson’s to prostate cancer — as well as access to more than 3,000 home care products for incontinence, skin care, mobility, home safety and daily living aids. The CareGiver Partnership was founded in 2004 by Lynn Wilson of Neenah, Wisc. Visit to learn more or call 1-800-985-1353.


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