| Tue, May 08, 2012 @ 09:00 AM

Top 10 Tips for Caregivers

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

Top 10 Tips for CaregiversMedicare reports that nearly 66 million Americans are caregivers. And according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), fully 61 percent of caregivers are women.

This Mother’s Day, May 13th, marks the first day of National Women’s Health Week. It’s a good time to remind women caregivers that they need to care for themselves, too.

Caregiver Stress

“Caregiver stress” is the emotional and physical strain of caregiving. Among all caregivers, it appears to affect women more than men.

Reactions to caregiver stress can take many forms. Caregiver’s may feel frustrated, angry, guilty, lonely or exhausted. These feelings are natural. It’s best to accept them and try to work through them in a healthy way. If you are unaware of your feelings or just try to cope, problems may arise.

Research cited by HHS shows that caregivers (again, mostly women):

  • Are more likely to have symptoms of depression or anxiety
  • Are more likely to have a long-term medical problem, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes or arthritis
  • Have higher levels of stress hormones
  • Spend more days sick with a contagious disease
  • Have a weaker response to the flu vaccine
  • Have slower wound healing
  • Have higher levels of obesity
  • May be at higher risk for mental decline, including problems with memory and paying attention

Caregiver, Heal Thyself

Caregivers are busy caring for others. They may not take good care of themselves and their health can suffer as a result. For example, WomensHealth.gov reports that women caregivers are less likely than women who are not caregivers to get needed medical care. They are also less likely to get enough sleep, eat well or exercise.

The National Family Caregiver’s Association suggests these ten tips for caregivers. They can help you be a better caregiver, in part, by taking care of yourself.

Top 10 Tips for Caregivers

Carol Ann Pitts, a caregiver who shared her story on Medicare.gov, said it well. “Caregivers need to remember that they are only human,” she writes. “You will make mistakes and can’t do it all yourself. But you are making a difference in the life of another—and that helps make it all worthwhile.”

For more information, contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048. If you have questions about Medicare Made Clear call 1-877-619-5582, TTY 711, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week.

The family of UnitedHealthcare® Medicare Solutions plans are insured or covered by an affiliate of UnitedHealthcare, a Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract and Medicare-approved Part D Sponsor.

Resources:

Getting Started: Basic information about Medicare from Medicare Made Clear

Ask Medicare: Medicare’s one-stop source for caregiver information and support

Y0066_120312_132106 File & Use 03182012