A short story from real life – the names and the circumstances have been changed to protect the privacy of persons concerned.
Eric moved into his father’s home to assist his dad in regaining his once vibrant health. Eric set in place an excellent program and took great care of his dad for eight months. Not once did Eric take a 24-hour break. He put papers in order, made and took his dad to medical and other appointments, purchased the supplements and food, prepared all meals and snacks. His dad’s progress was visible. During this time some health challenges (diabetes and high blood pressure problems) resolved themselves and the medications for these were no longer needed. The disease itself stabilized and was beginning to reverse itself. But still Eric could not be convinced to take any breaks. Then one morning Eric felt unwell – really so unwell he went to a doctor who prescribed an antibiotic. After 48 hours Eric still felt unwell and, in fact, now had even more severe pains – so much so an ambulance was called and Eric was rushed to a nearby hospital where they found he was suffering a stroke. Eric is recovering but he is hardly able to care for himself let along his dad now.
Why this story: It brings to mind that caregivers must – not maybe, not occasionally, not next week – take care of themselves. They must have breaks and they must ensure that they put their needs at the top of the priority list. I liken this need to the message one hears each time one flies – put your own mask on first, then help others.
So, what can a caregiver do to avoid the very common pitfalls of being a full-time caregiver? What are the pitfalls?
Caregivers, particularly those caring for persons with Alzheimer’s, are under a great deal of constant stress. Studies indicate that caregivers show signs of psychological distress including depression; that they have suppressed immune systems; that they neglect their own self care including not making dental care appointments and medical checkups for themselves; that they often cannot continue to work in their careers; that they do not give themselves time to socialize and take physical and mental breaks; that they do not eat properly, sleep soundly nor get adequate sleep and much, much more.
Many caregivers forgo their quality of life habits, work themselves beyond healthful limits, do not realize the constant stress they are under, are sleep deprived, and are often socially isolated.
Here are some recommended healthful things one can incorporate into one’s caregiving life – these for self-care and well-being:
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