Family Caregiver – Do You Fear Aging & What it Will Mean to Your Life?

Do you celebrate life no matter what age you are?

Do you feel the joy of living?

Do you worry about your own aging, especially since you are a caregiver of a loved one?

While seemingly always a popular topic, talk of aging seems more prevalent today.

It is interesting to note that 4.2 million tweets a year addressed aging.

In the media, the topic of health grew 48% in 2014 over 2013.

Get Old Study

I recently found a new study examining the attitude we all have toward aging and how it might influence the life we lead. They wanted to assess how aging was being discussed via Twitter.

Conducted online among over 2,000 adults over age 18 by Harris Poll on behalf of Pfizer’s Get Old Campaign, the goal was to determine if people of all ages should start thinking about how they want to age so that they can change their fears into action.

They found that 87% have at least one fear when they think about getting old:

  • Decline in physical ability (23%)
  • Memory loss (15%)
  • Having a chronic disease (12%)
  • Running out of money (12%)

Pfizer’s Get Old Campaign will use this information to create “new, engaging and shareable” information via social media, including Twitter. They plan to share quizzes, videos and educational content on a variety of topics to help us all take charge of our health, finances, and attitudes for more successful aging.

Health of Family Caregivers

Family caregivers often have a real interest in understanding how to improve their health so that they can enjoy their life while getting done all the things that need doing.

There are many ways caregivers’ health can be negatively affected by their role as a family caregiver.

Stress – there can be a strong emotional impact being a caregiver. Frustration, anger, guilt, denial, exhaustion, regret, and loneliness. 75% of caregivers who report stress from their role are women.

Physical – when you put your own health behind that of others, including those for whom you care, it will often end with a physical problem. Medically you can have a weakened immune system, poor wound healing, undesired weight changes (loss or gain), chronic disease, such as heart disease or diabetes, mental health issues, and more frequent illnesses. Lack of sleep plays a part in weakness and fatigue.

Personal Health – many caregivers, especially women, put off their own health checkups. They may not get the preventive care they need, fill their own prescriptions or have recommended health screenings that can diagnose problems before they become untreatable. Getting vaccines according to schedule is another thing that often takes a backseat when we care for our loved ones. Missing certain vaccines can lead to time spent fighting preventable illnesses when you will be unable to be a caregiver.

Poor Eating Habits – caregivers often feed others and neglect to take time to feed themselves. Grab and go because we have so many other things that need to be done is not often a healthy way to eat. Getting a variety of fresh foods, whole grains and lean proteins are usually in a convenient form and take time to prepare, time we might not to expend to care for ourselves. When we don’t eat adequately, it can lead to medical issues that could keep us from caregiving.

No Physical Activity – getting to the gym, taking a long walk, or doing yoga is something we could all do to meet the recommended level of physical activity that will help us age well, maintain our heart health and manage our weight. When we find other things that seem more important than caring for our own bodies and scheduling time to get active and stay healthy, it will eventually catch up with us.

What Can Caregivers Do to Put Their Health First?

There are ways that we can find time, make time and schedule time for ourselves as caregivers in order to prevent burnout and feel that we are able to age well ourselves.

We need to have a strong positive outlook on our own aging experience and take the initiative to meet our own health goals.

  1. Schedule time for exercise and physical activity.
  2. Accept help when offered, ask for help if it isn’t offered. Pay for help if you need it. Contact your family and friends for help doing tasks that anyone can do to free you up to do those things that only you can do – like care for yourself.
  3. Don’t try to do it all yourself.
  4. Seek out a support group that can help you understand your feelings about the disease process your loved one faces. Learn new strategies to help you manage your time and be the best caregiver you can be. Look for supportive and educational messages from the Old Age Campaign on Twitter and other social media platforms.
  5. Eat well and drink plenty of fluids.
  6. Get your medical checkups and preventive screenings. Seek out scheduled vaccines to stay well.
  7. Talk to a counselor if your mental health is compromised by your caregiving duties. Discuss your fears, frustrations, and loneliness so that you can work past it. Keep a journal to express your feelings so that you can move on.
  8. Find respite care if you need a break, whether it is for an afternoon, weekend or a week. There are options for this type of respite care and it could give you the chance to relax and care for your own needs that can allow you to continue to be a caregiver.

These are just a few suggestions for you to put your needs back in the forefront. You probably have heard the saying that is very appropriate here: put your own air mask on before anyone else’s.

You have to care for yourself to be a long term caregiver. Even if doing a great job of caregiving now, you may find your loved one needing your help for a longer term period.

It is very important for caregivers to have a positive attitude about their own aging, not be afraid of the future and set health goals to age well.

We wish you well in putting yourself at the front of the line!