Caregivers Face Physical Health Risks of Their Own

It’s no secret that many caregivers struggle with the emotional toll of taking care of their loved ones. But did you know that caregivers face health risks from the physical toll of caregiving as well? According to a recent study conducted at Ohio State University, most of those who spend more than 21 hours each week caring for the daily needs of a loved one have experienced significant musculoskeletal discomfort that has impacted them in their everyday lives. The most common culprit was back pain, which can quickly put you on the receiving end of care yourself.

If you’re caring for a senior adult you love, take some time to learn about your body and protect yourself from injury. Learning the facts can help you continue to pursue your passions and care for your loved one without risking potentially debilitating injury.

Learn the Basics of Body Mechanics
A good way to get started on the road to healthier, safer caregiving is to take a page from a healthcare professional’s book. Healthcare professionals are trained to take several precautions that can minimize health risks and injuries, which you can learn with a bit of time and practice. For example, when lifting a loved one to move her from one spot to another, keep your upper body upright by bending at the knees instead of the waist, and lift with your legs rather than leaning over and pulling. Try to keep the person you are lifting close to your body until she’s been safely moved. To learn more techniques, check for classes in body mechanics at the Red Cross or your local Area Agency on Aging, or learn more online through the Institute for Caregiver Education.

Ask for Help
It may seem obvious, but many home caregivers are reluctant to ask for help or accept it when it’s offered. It’s always easier for two people to lift and reposition an older adult who needs help, and the added caregiver support can save you from chronic injuries. This is no time to be shy or worry about being a burden. Instead of struggling to lift someone up in his bed by yourself, with another person and the use of a draw sheet — a sheet placed under the lower torso and hips of a bed-bound adult — you can lift and turn him with ease. Work smarter, not harder.

Take Care of Yourself
Being a caregiver doesn’t mean being a martyr. Your needs are just as important as the needs of your loved one. After all, if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else, right? If you’re already suffering from a lot of aches and pains, see your doctor for recommendations to mend the damage done — then learn and implement good body mechanics to prevent further injury.

We want to give our senior family members the best care possible — but to do that, we have to take care of ourselves. Keep yourself healthy and active, and you’ll not only improve the quality of your own life, but the lives of your senior loved ones as well.

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