Healthy Living: Caregivers struggling to care for themselves

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November is National Family caregiving month. More than 50 million Americans are now providing some form of care within their homes because of the pandemic. 

In this week’s Healthy Living, we look at why caregivers are suffering when it comes to their own health.  

Dr. Drew Oliveira is the Senior Executive Medical Director with Regence BlueShield. He says, “A caregiver is typically an unpaid person who cares for someone with a serious, chronic illness or disability within the home.” 

Before the pandemic, 1 in 5 adults were providing some form of caregiving. That is 50 million people! Now, because of the isolation of the pandemic, Dr. Oliveira says that the number is even greater!  

“Caregiving has exploded, where many of us, many more people are providing caregiving activities either within their home, with children, with neighbors, with extended family.”  

While more people are caring for others, they are letting their own health go by the wayside. Dr. Oliveira says caregivers are shown to have poorer health than the average person, “A BlueCross BlueShield association report showed that caregiver health was 26 percent lower than an age-matched peer.” 

Caregivers are really feeling the impacts of this pandemic too. Dr. Oliveira says depression is up among this group, and so is anxiety amoung younger people, “For the millennial population who are caregivers, stress and anxiety is up 64 percent.” 

So instead of picking up vices, or bad habits, like smoking, medications, or over-eating, Dr. Oliveira has some other recommendations on how to manage the stressful emotions that are cropping up, “Find ways to get a break. You need a break if you’re caregiving. You need to take time for yourself, you need to take time for your health. Find someone to take care of that person for you and make sure you’re doing that on a regular basis.” 

Dr. Oliveira says be sure to maintain connections with others. Right now there are several ways to do that, through social media, zoom calls, or by getting out in the community (safely of course). He says find ways to refresh yourself. Be sure you are exercising, eating well, sleeping and sticking to routines.  

“You can’t give if you’re a caregiver unless you have something in your tank.” 

Finally, Dr. Oliveira says visit Arch Angels, it is a place to find support within the caregiving community.  

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