The Physical Effect of Caregiving
About two-thirds of all family caregivers are women. It’s these tender souls who give up much in order to take care of those they love who are on their final journey in life. It’s also these gentle souls, and maybe you are one of them, who tend to put all their energy into taking care of everyone else and fail to take care of their own physical needs.
Let’s look at some statistics:
- Female caregivers experience higher levels of depression and anxiety and also a lower level of general wellbeing than their male counterparts.
- Twenty-two percent of female caregivers go to bed exhausted.
- More than 1 in 5 women fail to get their regular mammograms on time.
- Due to increased stress, 21 percent of all caregivers have a higher abuse level of alcohol and prescription drugs.
- Female caregivers are more likely to smoke or consume fatty foods.
- Female caregivers don’t fill their prescriptions on time and don’t go to the doctor as often as they should.
- Female caregivers are more susceptible to heart disease and they don’t eat well or exercise regularly.
All of this neglect of their own physical needs often leads to higher mortality rates in women family caregivers; especially if they are over 65 and caring for a loved one.
So what is the message you should take from all this information? Well, it’s multi-layered.
Start by realizing that you are abusing yourself by neglecting your own physical needs. You can always say, “I just don’t have time for all those things.” Find a way to make time for yourself without feeling guilty.
Set goals and follow through with them. This might be a simple as saying “I will do one thing every day to take care of me.” That one thing might be a half hour walk, keeping a doctor’s appointment, shopping with a friend or going to your son’s baseball game. You will be happier and your quality of care will be better.
GET HELP! Honestly, please get help. You must realize that it is possible that you can’t be all things to everybody. Call on family. Call on a friend. Get help from Hospice of Santa Cruz County, hospice can help support you as a family caregiver. Schedule a volunteer to come read to your loved one while you go to the doctor. Have a friend come over to visit the patient while you exercise for an hour. A family member might be willing to pick up your prescriptions if you don’t have time. You would be amazed at how many people are will and able to assist you.
It is important to you, the patient and your own family that you stay whole through this difficult time. That may take a little work on your part to coordinate and schedule with others, but it is well worth it if it means you maintain your physical and mental health.
“Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure.” – Tao Tzu