Are you one of the 65 million family caregivers in the United States? A recent study released by Elissa S. Epel, Dept of Psychiatry at the University of California reports that this often stressful situation can take up to 10 years off a caretaker’s life.

Let me tell you about Jack, age 72. Jack and his wife found their dream retirement home nearly three years ago. Once an avid golfer, Jack became a full time caregiver when his wife Susan, age 68, suffered a massive stroke (Male caregivers represent 40% of family caregivers). He does the grocery shopping, picks up medicine, and drives his wife to doctor’s appointments. He does laundry, prepares meals and manages his wife’s lift and other mobility devices. While his golf clubs lie idle, Jack becomes more isolated from friends, his blood pressure elevates, and exhaustion and frustration build leaving him feeling guilty and depressed. Jack is in danger of becoming a patient himself.

If you are a family caregiver, it is important to remember that you need to look after yourself in order to care for the one you love. Remember, your loved one wants that for you as well. Reach out for help and support, as you can’t do this alone. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

How can you take control of your own health and still care for a spouse, parent, sibling, or child? By being proactive in all stages of your caregiving situation, you can learn how to relieve stress daily.

Here are a few hints to help with managing daily stress:

  • Keep that medical appointment you keep canceling because it frequently seems to conflict with your relative’s needs.
  • Reach out to professionals qualified to assist you as a caregiver.
  • Attend a caregiver support group at a local senior center or community resource center.
  • Get help online through the National Family Caregiver Association and the National Institutes of Health.
  • Exercise at least 20 minutes a day.
  • Keep your back healthy. Many family caregivers do a lot of lifting, moving, pushing. If you aren’t sure how to protect your back, ask your doctor to refer you to a physical therapist.
  • Eat as many vegetables and healthy whole foods as you can. The proper nutrition goes a long way.
  • Educate yourself about your loved one’s condition. Knowledge is power.

There are many free local support groups in the Coachella Valley including:

Rancho Mirage: Support Group for Stroke Survivor Family Caregivers: 1st& 3rd Wednesday of each month, 10-11 AM, Country Villa Rancho Mirage Health Care Center.

Palm Springs: Support Group for Stroke Survivor Family Caregivers: 2nd& 4th

Wednesday,10:30-11:30 AM, Stroke Recovery Center

Parkinson’s Support Group Tuesdays, 1:30-2:30, Eisenhower Medical Campus.

Dorcas Greene, Collaborative Coaching USA, has been a family caregiver for over 40 years.  Her passion is ensuring that other family caregivers maintain their sanity and health. Stacy Hennis, New Beginning Physical Therapy, specializes in treating adults with chronic medical conditions. These conditions affect the family, not just the patient. To reach Dorcas, please call 760-301-5247 or online at  DorcasGreeneCoach.com. To reach Stacy, please call 760-218-9961 or online at NewBeginningPT.com

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