A new survey just released for November National Caregiver Month shows while almost half of the nation’s 65 million family caregivers ignore their own health needs and 45 percent feel stress from caring for a loved one, Monday may be the prescription they need for better health.
The survey, commissioned by Caregiver Monday and conducted by research group FGI, polled more than 1,010 caregivers about the health impact of caring for a parent, spouse or other loved one. Approximately half of the caregivers surveyed were between the ages of 45 and 64 and 29 percent reported caregiving full-time with 71 percent spending between a few hours to most of their free time in caregiving mode.
Sid Lerner, founder and chairman of The Monday Campaigns, a non-profit organization based on research from Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University and Syracuse University showing Monday can be used as a “weekly check-in date” to help Americans adopt healthier behaviors, observes it is important for caregivers to set aside some time each week to avoid the common caregiver pitfall of neglecting their own health needs.
“Caregiving can be a physically, mentally and emotionally taxing job—but its importance cannot be overstated,” says Lerner. “We’re all indebted to our caregivers, and it’s our job to foster an environment that promotes their health and happiness.”
Caregiver health risks and neglect are not a new phenomenon. A Commonwealth Fund study found caregivers are twice as likely as the general public to develop chronic illness due to the prolonged stress of caregiving. The National Alliance for Caregiving also conducted a caregiver health risk study and found 72 percent of those surveyed neglected their own doctor and dental appointments because of the time constraints from caring for an older parent.
And a UCLA study published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry stated 50 percent of Alzheimer’s caregivers suffer from a higher level of depression than other caregivers leading to increased health problems. One solution from that study prescribed 12 minutes of yoga or meditation every day for eight weeks to decrease the caregivers’ depression levels.
The challenge is helping caregivers find the time for yoga, meditation and other healthy activities. Lerner believes Monday is the answer. He reports Monday is part of our cultural DNA. It is the start of the work week and the school week. It is the time when we hit the reset button each week to start fresh. His organization launched Caregiver Monday, with tips, resources and other materials to help guide caregivers to find the time for themselves using Monday as the weekly reminder.
“While we celebrate caregivers all month in November, one month of awareness is not enough,” advises Lerner. “Setting aside personal time at least once a week is going to ensure caregivers can continue to provide care to their loved one.”
Sherri Snelling writes about Me Time Monday for caregivers in her book, A Cast of Caregivers.