As a health writer and caregiver, I understand the importance of self-care. I’ve written articles about self-care and discussed it in book chapters. In recent days, however, I’ve been falling behind on self-care. There’s just too much to do. At bedtime I’m well aware that some tasks are undone. Self-care is one of these tasks. What happened?

Sudden illness changed my caregiving role

My disabled husband hadn’t been feeling well for several weeks. He became so weak that he couldn’t use a transfer board. Worse, he didn’t know what year it was or what day. I called 911 and an ambulance took him to the hospital. Tests were run and the diagnoses were pneumonia and a bladder infection, two things that sap physical and mental energy.

There were new things to learn

A physical therapist prescribed leg and arm exercises for my husband. She showed me how to assist him and gave me two brochures. All of these exercises require help and encouragement. Indeed, I think my encouragement is as important as my husband doing the exercises. I feel like I’m cheering us both on.

New tasks were added to my daily schedule

Each caregiving day is packed: four loads of laundry, folding laundry, medication management, grocery shopping, preparing healthy meals, keeping our townhome clean, paying our bills, monitoring investments, and helping my husband with self-catheterization. Add exercises to this list and the day is gone. I have little time left for me.

Interrupted sleep takes a toll

I try to be in bed by 10 p.m. but this isn’t always possible. Although my husband is able to self-catheterize, sometimes he calls me in the middle of the night. Once I’m awake it’s hard to get back to sleep. Lately I’ve been waking up between 4:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. Once I’m awake I may as well get up for the day. Around mid-afternoon I start to get tired, and there are hours of caregiving ahead of me.

I worry about finances and family members

The ambulance trip to the hospital costs about $1,000. We received the hospital bill today. Three nights and three and a half days cost more than $10,000. Although our health insurance pays the majority of our medical bills, we still have co-payments and out-of-pocket costs. Several family members are facing their own health challenges and I am concerned about them.

To keep caring for my husband I have to care for me, and have made some changes. I started by studying the physical therapy brochures and memorizing the exercises. When I prepare a meal I fix extra food for future meals, and this saves me time. An afternoon nap (when possible) has been added to my daily schedule. Our financial advisor came to our home and updated us on our finances, which reduced some of my worries. Lastly, I connect more with family members and friends and this boosts my spirits.

Caregivers are worthy of self-care. Let’s practice it!

About Harriet Hodgson

Rochester resident Harriet Hodgson has been a freelance writer for 37 years, is the author of thousands of Internet/print articles, and 35 books. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Minnesota Coalition for Death Education and Support.

She is also a contributing writer for The Caregiver Space website, Open to Hope Foundation website, and The Grief Toolbox website. Harriet has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations, including CNN.

A popular speaker, Harriet has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, caregiving, and bereavement conferences. Her work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories.

All of Harriet’s work comes from her life. She is now in her 19th year of caregiving and cares for her disabled husband, John. For more information about this busy author, grandmother, wife, and caregiver please visit www.harriethodgson.com

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