Caregivers and care receivers may be about the same age. This is especially true if a wife is caring for her husband, or a husband is caring for his wife. While the caregiver is tending to the needs of another, she or he may develop their own health problems.
You may have arthritis, or osteoporosis, or diabetes—chronic conditions that require monitoring and professional care. Before you know it, self-care and caregiving have become a balancing act.
My husband is six months older than I am (I married an older man), and I recently discovered that I have osteoporosis in my knees, in addition to two arthritic hips. When I get up in the morning I feel “creaky” and can hardly walk. An hour later, after I’ve taken an over-the-counter pain medication, walking becomes easier.
For many caregivers the question is “How can I retain a balance between my own needs and my loved one’s needs?” Since I don’t know anything about your caregiving tasks of setting, I can’t be specific. Still, you may find the following tips helpful. At least, they have worked for me.
See your primary care physician
In her book, Passages in Caregiving, Gail Sheehy writes, “Being a caregiver provides many excuses for skipping your necessary checkups, but don’t do it.” After I felt and heard a snap in my left knee, I contacted my primary care physician. She referred me to a Certified Nurse Practitioner, who recommended an x-ray. The x-ray revealed the osteoporosis. If you don’t have a primary care physician, now may be the time to get one.
Keep medications current
Don’t take any medicine that is out of date. Renew prescriptions if necessary. My husband and I are on a “worry-free” medication renewal program, and the medications come by mail. Sometimes, however, I have to call the 800 phone number and ask for a prescription to be renewed. The prescription service contacts the physician who wrote the original prescription—a big help to me.
Learn more about your chronic condition
Osteoporosis is a good example for this point. It is basically weakened bone strength and the person with it is more at risk of breaking a bone. To learn more I subscribed to a Mayo Clinic bi-weekly newsletter about osteoporosis.
Be kind to yourself
Tell your loved one when you aren’t feeling well. Apologize for the delay if you think you need to, yet be reassuring. Remember, you have to be in good health to care for your loved one. Mike O’Connor details self-kindness in his article, “40 Ways to Practice Self-Kindness,” posted on the Kindness Blog. One point caught my attention: Act on what you need and not what you want. Instead, O’Connor says we need to remain strong, centered, and continue to move forward.
Caregiving is a journey and practicing self-kindness will make the journey easier for you and your loved one.