Taking care of a family member can be incredibly overwhelming.  Now, new research shows that when we care for others, we often aren’t caring for ourselves.

As a family caregiver, you’re trying to do it all: juggling work, family and care for the sick or elderly loved one, but you may be putting your own health at risk.

Many caregivers say that they don’t have time to take care of themselves.  They tend to put off doctor’s appointments, dentist appointments, exercise time, etc.

Approximately 5 million Canadians struggle as caregivers.  That’s one out of every 4 women and men in the country.  Strangely enough, new research recently completed by the National Family Caregivers Association in the U.S. finds that most don’t see themselves as caregivers.  Nonetheless, the stress on them is there, although they may not realize the cause.

Suzanne Mintz, spokesperson for the group says: “The new study shows that intense stress, such as caregiving, actually ages you.  You can age as much as 10 years, which is extraordinary to think that by giving too much of yourself you are lessening your own life and therefore may not be there for the one you love.”  Mintz says “that the first step forward is to acknowledge that you are a caregiver, then look at how it’s affecting your life.  Finally, if you’re overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

“It’s really important for people to understand that if they know a family caregiver that they should offer help.  Not just say ‘Call me if you need me’, but offer very specific help:  ‘Can I bring over meals every Tuesday for the next month?  Don’t worry about the grass; we’ll cut it for you’.”

If you are a caregiver, look at how much time you’re spending on yourself.  You’ll probably find that it’s not that much.  Seek help from your community.  There are many social networks that are there for you.