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BellaOnline's Stress Management Editor

Caregiving Can Be Harmful to Your Health

Did you know that if you are a caregiver, you might be damaging your own health? If you are not a caregiver, is one of your parents a caregiver? The New England Journal of Medicine cited a groundbreaking new study by Dr. Nicholas Christakis that caring for a sick spouse can raise a caregiver's risk of death by 20%. For particularly disabling illnesses, like dementia, the daily toll on the caretaker is worse than the toll of a spouse's death! >

Many caregivers tell me that they grieve a little every day while the person is alive. Drawing from my own personal experience, I am convinced that there is a high correlation between my mother contracting Alzheimer’s disease and serving as a caregiver to my father who was suffering from the disease. Lightning striking twice in the same household jumpstarted my attention. After having read Dr. Christakis’ research, my attention is now riveted to the internal, invisible, physiological effects of the relentless daily stress of caregiving.

You might ask: What can we do about it – run away from our responsibilities and seek our own pleasures? The guilt would find a way to track us down and kill us anyway. Although the findings are frightening and disheartening, they serve as a wake-up call to 44 million nationwide caregivers. As an only child to two parents with Alzheimer’s disease, I know first hand that you can find your balance in the moments in between where you can bounce back from the pressure.

Here are some suggestions for healthy caregiving:For more, check out my book Changing Habits: The Caregiver's Total Workout

Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com

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