By Mary Krueger
The theme for National Family Caregivers Month for November 2016 is "Take Care to Give Care."
The first rule of taking care of others: Take care of yourself first. Caregiving can be a rewarding experience, but it is also physically and emotionally demanding. The stress of dealing with caregiving responsibilities leads to a higher risk of health issues among the 90 million family caregivers in the U.S.
So as a family caregiver, remember to pay attention to your own physical and mental wellness, and get proper rest and nutrition. Only by taking care of yourself can you be strong enough to take care of your loved one.
Caregiving can be a stressful job. Most family caregivers say they feel stressed providing care for a loved one. With all of their caregiving responsibilities — from managing medications to arranging doctor appointments to planning meals — caregivers too often put themselves last.
The stress of caregiving impacts your own health. Twenty percent of all caregivers admit they have sacrificed their own physical health while caring for a loved one. They are twice as likely to suffer depression and are at an increased risk for many other chronic conditions.
Proper nutrition helps promote good health. Ensuring that you are getting proper nutrition is important to help maintain your strength, energy and stamina, as well as strengthening your immune system.
Ensuring good nutrition for your loved one helps make care easier. About half of all older adults are at risk for malnutrition. Good nutrition can help maintain muscle health, support recovery and reduce risk for rehospitalization, which may help make your care of a loved one easier.
Remember: Rest. Recharge. Respite. People think of respite as a luxury, but considering caregivers' higher risk for health issues from chronic stress, those risks can be a lot costlier than some time away to recharge.
There is help available. The local caregiver support group meets on the second Tuesday of each month from 2 to 4 p.m. at First Lutheran Church in Alexandria. There is also a Douglas County Resource list available on the Douglas County website. Local providers are listed along with what services they can provide.