A helping hand for caregivers

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: September 10th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The number of Americans who act as caregivers is growing exponentially… more than fifty-three million at last count. While these caregivers perform a necessary and vital service, they may be damaging their own health in the process, a new study by the American Heart Association found.

Researchers examined heart risk factors in family members of cardiac patients and found that those who provided all or most of a patient’s care was more likely to have higher risk factors for heart disease than non-caregivers.

What’s the connection? Caregivers are more likely to be stressed out and depressed, and there is growing evidence these factors may play an important role in the development of cardiovascular disease.

But the American Heart Association is stepping in to help. It offers a support system for caregivers on its Web site, www.americanheart.org, that includes a bill of rights, tips on how to manage finances and suggestions for staying healthy and happy. Among the recommendations:

*Take short walks a couple of times a day.

*Set aside a “quiet space” in your house where you can go to relax.

*Schedule a time out when your loved one is typically sleeping or watching a television program.

*“Insist on these moments in a gentle way and reward your loved one after you’ve refreshed yourself.”

Being a caregiver is one of the most important jobs in the world. Just make sure you’re not neglecting yourself… or your health… in the process.