The stark reality is that more and more Americans each and every day find themselves taking on the role of caregiver for a family member. This can present immense physical and emotional challenges. The first steps suggested here can help you find some balance as you navigate your caregiver journey.
(BPT) - Caring for a loved one with a chronic illness is something millions of Americans do every day. Whether it is a parent, spouse, extended family member or friend, the stress of caring for another adult can take a toll.
"I have to do absolutely everything for her," explains Anthony Cowels, whose 71-year-old wife, Florence, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1986. As he watched her disease progress, his caregiver responsibilities grew. What's more, for some of the years Cowels also cared for his elderly parents, compounding his responsibilities.
"It has been a long journey of caregiving," says Cowels, 70. "I try not to let it overwhelm me. I always look for ways to do better." Cowels learned to care for both himself and his wife better through useful tools, education and friendship and by joining a caregiver support group. He says he can "interact with others who identify with my situation.”
Family caregiving: A growing trend
Cowels represents a growing number of Americans who care for older or aging loved ones. About 41 million family caregivers in the United States provided an estimated 34 billion hours of care to an adult with limitations in daily activities in 2017, notes the AARP report Valuing the Invaluable: 2019 Update. What's more, as the population ages, caregiving demands are increasing while the pool of potential caregivers is decreasing.
As the Valuing report states, "Americans will have more older relatives or close friends to potentially care for than children in about 15 years. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that, by the year 2035, adults ages 65 and older will outnumber children under the age of 18 for the first time in U.S. history. This fundamental demographic shift is the result of the aging of the U.S. population, increasing longevity, and a declining birth rate. "
Caring for yourself
In addition to helping with self-care activities like bathing, dressing and going to the bathroom, family caregivers today often perform complex medical tasks, including wound care, giving injections and handling medical equipment. The tasks that were once provided in hospitals and health care clinics are increasingly the responsibility of family and friends, who are often given little training or support.
While many family caregivers often report positive feelings in their role such as a sense of purpose or connection with their loved one, it often comes with feelings of being overwhelmed. Exhaustion, worry, loneliness and financial stress are common challenges caregivers face. If you also work a full-time job, it can be even more difficult to balance your needs and responsibilities.
While you may not achieve perfect balance, it is important to prioritize your physical and mental wellbeing, so you can be there for the person you care for. These first steps can help you find some balance as you navigate your caregiver journey:
It is important for family caregivers to stay mentally and physically healthy so they can provide the best care possible to the growing number of people who need support. For helpful tips and caregiver resources, visit www.aarp.org/caregiving.
The HealthiHer movement aims to give women the tools they need to make such changes at home, at work or in their communities. If you’re among those struggling to take good care of yourself because of other obligations, consider how these suggestions might help.
(BPT) - If you’re an American woman today, chances are your busy lifestyle is preventing you from seeking out the regular check-ups and screenings so important to maintaining your health. And that’s true regardless of your economic status or whether you live in a rural, urban or suburban area.
So reports a recent HealthiHer survey showing that only 66 percent of U.S. women ages 30 to 60 feel “somewhat in control” of their own health, although 83 percent are happily managing the health of their families. The study, co-sponsored by Redbook magazine, HealthyWomen and GCI Health, found that a full 77 percent of women in that age group say that their job schedules prevent them from attending regular check-ups.
"Women today wear many hats — they’re wives, mothers, caregivers, employees, business leaders and breadwinners, often at the same time," says Wendy Lund, CEO of leading communications agency, GCI Health. "Even when it feels like there are not enough hours in the day, we somehow manage to integrate everything in our lives to ‘make it work’ and accomplish insurmountable tasks. And this constant juggling can come at the cost of our own health."
The good news? The survey also reveals that 79 percent of respondents see positive change as achievable. The HealthiHer movement aims to give women the tools they need to make such changes at home, at work or in their communities. If you’re among those struggling to take good care of yourself because of other obligations, consider how these suggestions might help.
* Truth: You can’t help others without caring for yourself. Why do emergency airline instructions tell you to attach your own oxygen mask first? Because you could otherwise pass out before helping others. That same principle applies to your general health; you must maintain your own energy and well-being so you can stay around to be an effective mom, wife, daughter, sister and/or friend.
* Take stress seriously. While not all stress is bad, long-term unrelieved stress can have major adverse effects on your health, reducing the effectiveness of your immune, digestive, sleep and reproductive systems. Recognize the risks, plan methods for fighting stress and carve out time for exercise, sleep, meditation, yoga and/or other remedies.
* Try online resources. An annual in-person physical is always recommended, but health issues in between check-ups can often be taken care of through online sites that diagnose issues through questionnaires or video chats — then prescribe medicine or other therapies without need of an office visit.
* Make exercise a no-brainer. As the saying goes, sitting is the new smoking. If you don’t make daily movement of some sort a priority in your life (doctors recommend at least 150 minutes of brisk exercise per week) you’re putting your physical and emotional health at substantial risk. Among other benefits, exercise can help prevent diabetes and heart disease while reducing stress, back pain, arthritis, asthma and other common ailments.
* Set health care appointments well ahead. To secure the slots that work best with your schedule, call or go online way ahead of time so you have a wider range of options. Some clinics now offer evening or weekend hours to help those with demanding daytime jobs or roles. Planning ahead, and writing each appointment in ink on your family calendar, helps ensure you’ll make your own care a priority even if your schedule ramps up.
"It isn't selfish to put ourselves first, but in all honesty, we know that will never happen, our kids will always come first," says HealthyWomen CEO Beth Battaglino. "However, can we shoot for second? This is an investment in both our health and the health of our families. Women who don't take care of themselves are not going to be around or it will affect their ability to care for their loved ones, and this survey revealed that those who don't make time to get their health screenings, like mammograms, pap tests, eye exams, blood pressure, etc., actually had more health concerns."
More women’s health tips related to the HealthiHer Movement can be found at HealthyWomen.org or Facebook. Participate in the movement by posting a photo on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram depicting you taking charge of your health (Use the hashtag #BeHealthiHer).
(BPT) - When Fern started coughing over and over again, she was repeatedly diagnosed with bronchitis and recurring pneumonia. However, both Fern and her husband Philip knew that something wasn’t quite right. Fern and Philip’s persistence led to Fern’s diagnosis of nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) lung disease, a progressive and chronic condition caused by bacteria that are common in the environment.
“It took over six years for Fern to be accurately diagnosed with NTM lung disease and every day leading up to the diagnosis was a challenge — from doctors telling us no treatment was needed to the day-to-day reality of respiratory therapies,” said Fern’s husband, Philip. “But the biggest challenge by far was not being able to definitively state what she had and not knowing what plan of action to pursue.”
About NTM Lung Disease
Nontuberculous mycobacterial lung disease is an infection caused by bacteria that are aerosolized, which means they exist in water particles that float in the air and are breathed in. NTM bacteria is common in the environment and can be found places such as tap water, showerheads, steam from hot tubs, mist and soil from parks and gardens. In fact, one study across 25 states showed that
NTM bacteria was found in nearly eight out of ten water samples.
Everyone comes into contact with NTM bacteria during their daily lives. However, not everyone is at risk of getting NTM lung disease. Most people do not become infected because their lungs are healthy enough to clear the bacteria. But people who have conditions such as bronchiectasis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma are more likely to develop NTM lung disease, because conditions that cause damage to the lungs make it difficult to clear NTM bacteria.
Since the symptoms of NTM lung disease, such as cough, fatigue and shortness of breath, are similar to those of other lung conditions, many people who have it may not even know it for months or sometimes years. NTM lung disease is sometimes misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all because many people with symptoms think it’s due to a lung condition they already have.
Talk to a Doctor about NTM Lung Disease
Over time, NTM lung disease symptoms can get worse, and in some cases, the disease can cause severe, even permanent damage to the lungs, so early detection and management is crucial. If you think you or a loved one may have NTM lung disease, talk to your doctor about getting tested and visit AboutNTM.com for additional information.
Resources for NTM Patients and Caregivers
Throughout the diagnosis and treatment journey, Fern and Philip met patients from across the country who had similar experiences. Together, Philip and Fern started a non-profit organization, NTM Information & Research (NTMir), to save and improve lives through research, education, early detection and improved treatments for people with NTM lung disease. Over the past ten years the organization has grown to be a significant resource for patients with NTM lung disease and their caregivers as well as clinicians who treat the condition.
“When Fern was first diagnosed, information about NTM lung disease was scarce and we knew the best way to arm ourselves was to find out as much about NTM as possible,” Philip said. “Learning more about the disease, starting conversations with doctors, getting support from those around you and others with the same condition — those are all imperative to patients and caregivers alike.”
NTMinfo.org provides a library of tools and information, as well as an online community, for additional support. Resources can also be found at AboutNTM.com, such as a discussion guide to help prepare for the next doctor appointment, real patient stories and information about NTM lung disease.
If you or a loved one are struggling with the expenses of diabetes, here are some useful tips to control the cost of supplies and treatment.
(BPT) - For the over 29 million Americans living with diabetes, striking a balance between managing diabetes and controlling the cost of treatment can be challenging.[i] According to a Wakefield Research survey of 500 adults with diabetes, 62 percent of respondents said they felt they could do a better job managing their diabetes if supplies were more affordable, and 58 percent admitted to cutting corners in order to save money.
If you or a loved one are struggling with the expenses of diabetes, here are some useful tips to control the cost of supplies and treatment:
Affordable and simple testing
Testing your blood glucose regularly is very important for people with diabetes as it assists with the management of their condition and helps to prevent serious complications.[ii]
Check out the Accu-Chek Guide System, which includes a new blood glucose meter to help simplify the most frequent tasks needed to manage diabetes. Updated features include test strips in a new spill-resistant SmartPack vial to help ensure you won’t spill any strips when you take one for testing, a larger application area on the strip so even a small drop of blood anywhere along the end will yield results, and the meter’s strip port light to allow you to easily test at night as well as during the day.
An addition to the Accu-Chek Guide System is the SimplePay program which provides consistent low prices on test strips.[iii] Simply download the free SimplePay Savings card on the Accu-Chek website and hand the card to your pharmacist, along with your Accu-Chek guide meter and strip prescription to start saving. Visit accu-chek.com/guide to learn more and to download the savings card.
Manage medications for savings
Medications can be expensive, but several strategies can help you cut back on costs.
First, always ask your doctor if a generic version is available for any diabetes medication he or she prescribes for you. Generic medications typically cost much less than name brands, and the FDA requires generics to be the same as their brand-name equivalents in dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, performance characteristics and intended use.[iv]
If your doctor advises you to stick with a brand-name diabetes medicine, try contacting the manufacturer to see if they offer discount programs for patients. Many do.
Another tip is to purchase your diabetes medications in bulk to save money. Some online prescription supply companies offer savings for purchasing medicines in bulk. Just be sure you’re purchasing from a reputable supplier.
Use online resources and communities
When it comes to managing a disease like diabetes, knowledge really is power. A wealth of information is available for people living with diabetes from sources such as:
* The American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org.
* The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Diabetes Education Program (www.cdc.gov/diabetes).
* The Children’s Diabetes Foundation (www.childrensdiabetesfoundation.org).
* The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes).
* Your local health department.
Support organizations can also help you manage your disease. You’ll not only receive guidance from others who share similar experiences and concerns, but community members may be able to share ideas, tips and practical advice.
To learn more about diabetes management and controlling the cost of testing supplies, visit accu-chek.com/guide.
The Roche Diabetes Care Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research (www.wakefieldresearch.com) among 500 U.S. adults with diabetes, between April 11th and April 19th, 2017, using an email invitation and an online survey.
Results of any sample are subject to sampling variation. The magnitude of the variation is measurable and is affected by the number of interviews and the level of the percentages expressing the results. For the interviews conducted in this particular study, the chances are 95 in 100 that a survey result does not vary, plus or minus, by more than 4.4 percentage points from the result that would be obtained if interviews had been conducted with all persons in the universe represented by the sample.
[iii] The card is not insurance; it is a cash discount program and cannot be combined with any form of health insurance. Those insured by any government healthcare program, such as Medicare or Medicaid, are NOT eligible for this offer. Some insurers may
offer a lower cost option.
Interested in Publishing on The Health IDEA?
Send your query to the Publisher today!