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When Kerry Hutton's mother suffered a debilitating stroke a year ago, there was never any question that she would move in with her only daughter. "I just couldn't imagine putting her in a nursing home," says Hutton, 46, a business consultant in Mount Holly, NC. Her mother had lost much of her ability to speak and was virtually bedridden. "Before she moved in, we could pretty much do what we wanted," she says. "Now there was another person to be conscious of—it was like having a small child."

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Hutton could be the poster child for the nation's caregivers—typically women in their late 40s who spend more than 20 hours a week caring for their mothers, reports the National Alliance for Caregiving, a nonprofit organization in Bethesda, MD. Last year, 44 million people looked after a disabled, ill, or aging family member; 38% were adult children caring for aging parents. 

Though caregiving is an act of love, for many, the physical, emotional, and financial demands can overshadow any rewards, says Suzanne Mintz, cofounder of the National Family Caregivers Association, a nonprofit organization in Kensington, MD. "The stress of the experience can age these people prematurely," she says. Older caregivers have a 63% higher mortality rate than the average person, report University of Pittsburgh researchers.

More from Prevention:The Upside Of Being Selfish

This arduous work has been linked to an increased risk of colds and flu, as well as cancer and heart disease. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, caregivers are twice as likely to be depressed as those without such responsibility, and they're more likely to gain weight: 81 caregivers put on about 10 pounds in 18 months, in a recent University of Washington study.

But it's not all doom and gloom. "Given the right tools, most families can find a way to balance their own needs with those of their loved ones," says Debra Greenberg, PhD, a social worker for the geriatrics division of Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. Moreover, the relationship can yield a world of joy. "My mother and I never did a lot of things together," Hutton says. "But now we've experienced a renewal of family."

Deborah Robinson, 50, whose husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease four years ago, agrees: "Jim and I are probably closer in our marriage than ever," says the Orlando resident. "We focus on the limited number of years we have left and make the best of them. That part has been a blessing."

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A University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute study revealed that people who adopt this sunny viewpoint are better able to handle the strains of caregiving. To help you get there, try the following strategies.[pagebreak]

Tend to Your Own Needs

"Caring for yourself is anything but selfish; it's vitally important to your loved one's well-being," Mintz says. You'll minimize stress and prevent burnout, found a recent Yale University study of 206 caregivers. Doctors learned that those who continued some of their normal activities, such as participating in hobbies and going to work, were less likely to feel weighed down by their responsibility than those who were more restricted. "I do an hour of quiet time and an hour of yoga every day," Robinson says. She even managed to take a weeklong hiking trip in Montana last summer. (Her daughter filled in.) "I resisted going at first. I had never gone away without Jim before," she says. "But I realized that if I'm going to be good for him, I have to be good to myself."

More from Prevention:How To Show Yourself Some Love

Bend Someone's Ear

Social support, whether from one empathetic confidante or an organized group, is crucial for warding off depression, finds a recent New York University School of Medicine study of 406 caregivers of Alzheimer's patients. After 10 therapy sessions, participants exhibited fewer signs of depression than a control group did, and their moods stayed elevated for an impressive three years after the start of the study, most likely because they continued to use the coping skills.

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Express Yourself

A diary isn't only the domain of lovelorn teenagers. People who keep a journal for four consecutive days about any type of life trauma can greatly reduce their feelings of distress, depression, and anxiety, say researchers from Southern Methodist and Ohio State universities who looked at 50 diarists. (Those who simply recorded their plans for the day got no benefit.)

Tap Available Resources

"Caregivers who try to do it alone are putting a huge, unnecessary burden on themselves," says Mary S. Mittelman, DrPH, director of psychosocial research at New York University School of Medicine. To start your search for outside help, contact Eldercare Locator (800-677-1116). This service of the US Administration on Aging will direct you to local agencies such as meals-on-wheels, home health aides, and adult day care facilities. If you're caring for a terminally ill family member, consider hospice, a service that focuses on enabling patients to live out the remainder of their lives peacefully and painlessly.






Video: Caregiver Training: Home Safety | UCLA Alzheimer's and Dementia Care Program

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Date: 14.12.2018, 12:28 / Views: 81331