This week is National Women’s Health Week. The reason I mention “caregiving” in the title to this posting can probably be summed up in one word: Stress. If we were all together in a room, I would see a lot of heads nodding, because those women who are caregivers know what kind of stress this is…but you may not all be accepting that it is also costing your health to be that stressed caregiver.
One woman with whom I spoke some time ago said it best when she remarked that she didn’t think twice about canceling her own physician appointment in order to accommodate a medical appointment for her father for whom she was a caregiver. There are more than 65 million caregivers in America today, and two out of three of them are women. But that is not all. The majority of these caregivers are married and have full-time jobs. And 37% have a child or grandchild under 18 years of age living with them. No surprise that caregivers’ health care costs are significantly higher, because caregivers are sicker. And they don’t practice good wellness habits. Caregivers smoke more, drink more alcohol and get fewer preventive screenings. Ditto that “good wellness habits” thing.
There is not a quick fix to this health risk that women caregivers seem to uniquely have. There is no one size fits all, but there are some steps that all women – not just the caregivers – should take:
- Find what makes you happy and go there…frequently.
- Schedule a wellness visit with your primary care physician – now.
- Ask about what preventive screenings or vaccines you should have on your calendar.
- Get active…walk more and farther, and do it five days a week.
- Eat healthy…which is not to say you cannot still have your guilty pleasures, but you do need good sources of protein and lots of greenery in your diet.
- Get enough quality sleep…most experts talk about eight hours a night.
- If you smoke, quit; if you text and drive, quit; if you drink, monitor your alcohol consumption.
- Find what makes you happy and go there…frequently. I have repeated this for a reason.
And I probably need to add that you should starting working on this list now, because procrastinating on your health is not an option.
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.