Self-care for Caregivers: Take Care of YOU, to Take Care of Others
National Family Caregivers Month is celebrated in November, and it’s the perfect time to recognize the importance of self-care for caregivers. In Indiana, 720,000 people provide 780 million hours of informal care to family and friends each year. Women overwhelmingly carry the burden of caregiving, while also often caring for their own family and working full-time outside the home. In an environment where so many demands must be met, the female caregiver’s own health is often neglected.
Women caregivers often suffer many negative health outcomes as a result of their dedication to caring for others. Depression and anxiety affect women that care for ill or disabled friends and family at much higher rates than those that do not shoulder such responsibilities. In fact, women who are middle-aged and older who care for an ill or disabled spouse are six times more likely than non-caregivers to suffer from symptoms related to depression and anxiety. For women who care for parents, the rate of depressive and anxious symptoms is twice the rate of non-caregivers. Physical health also declines as caregivers dedicate less time to their own health. In fact, caregivers often suffer from high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, Type II diabetes, obesity, stroke, and autoimmune disorders at higher rates than their non-caregiving counterparts. In light of all the negative health consequences connected to caregiving, it is important to note that poor caregiver health often leads to poor quality of care for the care-receiver.
If caregivers take better care of themselves, it results in higher quality care for the care-receiver. If the care-receiver receiver better care, it stands to reason that their health will be more stable and the environment will be less stressful, further contributing to better health outcomes for both the caregiver and the care-receiver.
Caregivers can begin to practice self-care immediately in their lives. Kate Kunk, Caregiver Options Counselor at CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions, suggests several strategies for caregivers to improve their personal health. She recommends practicing deep breathing as a way to reduce stress. It is important to fit exercise into your life and to ensure you are eating a nutritional diet. These two strategies not only improve our physical health but also improve our mental clarity, and allow us to make better care decisions. Kunk also encourages laughter as a form of self-care. It is also extremely important to make preventive health a priority. Caregivers should get annual physicals and satisfy the recommended screenings for their age group.
It is difficult to ask for help, and many caregivers feel they do not even have the option to ask for help. It is important to note that optimal respite is a block of eight hours at one time. Often, this is not possible for caregivers, but it is important for caregivers to say yes to offers of help as many times as they are able. By accepting when it is offered, people will be willing to offer more often. Kunk emphasizes that by declining help and not asking for help, the caregiver is actually shortening the longevity of their ability to provide care. For care-receivers with higher needs, home health agencies that specialize in skilled care may be a suitable option for respite care. CICOA has lists of service providers on their website. For less skilled needs, caregivers are encouraged to reach out to pastors, neighbors, adult day services, and friends and family.
Informal caregivers provide the majority of in-home care in this country. They make a huge contribution to society’s economy and relieve much of the economic burden for the state. But to continue providing this much care, it is crucial for caregivers to make their mental and physical health a priority. Not only will it pay dividends for their own lives, but it will improve the quality and length of care they are able to provide.
Make 2012 Your Healthiest Holiday Season Yet!
The Holiday Season is upon us, whether we’re ready or not! And with the family gatherings, shopping, and holiday feasts comes stress, time constraints for working out, and unhealthy food temptation. From cleaning and cooking, to gift shopping and decorating, women traditionally bear the brunt of the holiday responsibilities. The added pressure from ensuring everyone is happy during the holidays can wreak havoc on women’s healthy lifestyles. It is possible to have a healthy Holiday Season, however. All it takes is a little preparation.
The holidays can be stressful, and that stress can have a negative effect on your mental and physical health. The “holiday blues,” or more serious depression, are common during the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. As our commitments and responsibilities increase during the holidays, we often begin to neglect our more healthful habits of healthy eating and exercise, which adds to the feelings of stress. There are several steps you can take to control the stress of the holidays.
Avoid over-committing yourself and your family. Your time is finite, and it should be spent making memories with those you love.
Avoid over-spending. It is easy to get carried away with gift shopping and party planning, but it is important to spend within your limits. Set spending limits with family and friends, or plan a fun evening together instead. Also, if you are experiencing financial hardships around the holidays, remember that personal, handmade gifts can as meaningful as store-bought. After all, it’s the thought that counts, right?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Instead of cooking for the entire family, go out to eat, or ask everyone to contribute. Have family members help with cleaning and wrapping presents.
Make time for exercise. During the holidays, the average American adds less than one pound. However, most of us don’t take that pound off, and they add up over the years! That’s why it’s important to ensure fitness remains a regular part of your holiday schedule. Fit exercise in with your regular holiday activities: park further away from the store, carry your groceries instead of using a cart, go for a family walk after your Thanksgiving meal. And, if on January 1, you find that your exercise routine has fallen by the wayside, you’ve got a great New Year’s Resolution!
Maintain a healthy diet. One of the best parts of the holidays is the food. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the worst parts! During the holidays, it’s okay to eat your favorite foods, as long as it’s done in moderation. When going to a holiday party or before a big family meal, eat something healthy at home, like a piece of fruit. Fill up on a healthy breakfast and/or lunch. Offer to bring one of your favorite healthy side dishes for everyone to try!
The holiday season can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to completely ruin our efforts at a healthy lifestyle. With a little planning and perseverance, we can have a happy, and HEALTHY, holiday!
Gestational Diabetes: The Basics
Gestational diabetes (GD) is the most common complication of pregnancy. GD is a condition characterized by high blood sugar (glucose) levels that is first recognized during pregnancy. Being diagnosed with GD can be worrisome or confusing for many mothers, but gaining an understanding of the condition can help.
What Causes GD? The exact reason why certain women develop GD is unknown. Because nutrients are being transferred to the developing fetus, pregnant women develop insulin resistance to prevent low blood sugar. In addition, the mother’s pancreas must work to overcome higher blood glucose levels by producing roughly three times the normal amount of insulin. As the baby and placenta grow, insulin-blocking hormones increase. If the pancreas is not able to produce enough extra insulin, blood sugar can rise to levels high enough to cause GD. This usually happens during the last half of pregnancy, sometime after the 20th week.
What Are the Complications? Most women who have GD deliver healthy babies. However, GD must be carefully managed to prevent uncontrolled blood sugar levels which could lead to complications, including an increased risk of Cesarean section delivery. Untreated GD can result in a baby's death either before or shortly after birth.
Complications that may affect your baby can include: Excessive birth weight; early (preterm) birth and respiratory distress syndrome; low blood sugar (hypoglycemia); Jaundice; Type 2 diabetes later in life.
Complications that may affect the mother can include: High blood pressure, preeclampsia and eclampsia; future diabetes
Who Is at Risk? GD can occur in any woman; however some are at greater risk. There are many risk factors for developing GD. Some of these risk factors are controllable; however it is important to note that many women who develop GD have no known risk factors.
The following factors are known to increase the risk of developing GD during pregnancy:
· Being over age 25
· Family or personal health history.
· Excess weight, with a body mass index of 30 or higher.
· Race. Women who are black, Hispanic, American Indian or Asian are more likely to develop GD.
How Is GD Diagnosed? The oral glucose tolerance test is used to screen for GD. Women who are high risk should be screened early in pregnancy. All other women are screened between their 24th and 28th week of pregnancy. The glucose tolerance test involves drinking a special sweetened drink over a short period of time. The body quickly absorbs the sugar from the drink, causing blood sugar levels to rise within 30-60 minutes. A blood sample is then taken one hour after drinking the solution to measure how the sugar solution was metabolized. If your results are high (abnormal), a second test is given after fasting for several hours.
How Is GD Managed? GD is managed by: Monitoring blood sugar levels, and urine for ketones; following specific dietary guidelines, and exercising as instructed by your doctor; watching weight gain; taking insulin, if necessary; controlling high blood pressure, if necessary.
Can GD be Prevented? Healthy habits such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight both before and during pregnancy can lower the risk, but there is no guaranteed way to prevent GD. Taking steps to live a healthy lifestyle is the best way to keep GD under control to maintain the health of the mother and her unborn child.
Where Can I Find Support? Education and support for management of GD is imperative to prevent complications and negative birth outcomes. The Indiana State Department of Health provides comprehensive resources for diabetes education, management and services at http://www.in.gov/isdh/19707.htm. The American Diabetes Association also has more information at http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/gestational/.