1. Caregivers need to learn to bend without breaking

    Caregivers need to learn to bend without breaking

    In 2010, Norma Rosenthal's parents were in their early 80s, enjoying good health and living in a Portland townhouse. Rosenthal and her husband were leaving Seattle on vacation when the phone rang. Her father was in crisis. She jumped in the car and made the first of many late-night drives to Oregon. “In a month and a half, both my parents went from being ferociously independent to needing full-time help at home,” the Snohomish resident recalls.

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    1. Support and knowledge are critical to navigating the caregiver journey. There is solace in not feeling alone.
    2. Some people don't have a severe illness. They may have chronic health conditions that require many medications and doctor appointments.
    3. Even the simplest things become challenging for a caregiver — finding time to eat, sleep, shower or just get out of the house for five minutes. It was hard to remember to take care of my own needs, too.
    4. There is evidence that caregivers may be at increased risk of heart disease.
    5. The overwhelming stress can also cause mental and emotional exhaustion, which can lead to depression and anxiety.
    6. If it's your parents, sit down and explain that it's because you love them that you want to have those conversations. You want to ensure they're cared for and everything goes smoothly as they age.
    7. Start those conversations as early as possible so it allows the person you're caring for to be involved. It's a great way to respect the person's autonomy and consider the needs of the caregiver.
    8. The best thing anyone can do is get into a caregiver support group.
    9. It gives a separate, neutral place to talk without fear of judgment.
    10. When we think of self-care, sometimes we focus on the big-ticket items like taking a vacation. Equally as important is to consider daily things you can do.
    11. The most common thing I hear from caregivers is that not enough people ask how they're doing.
    12. Try to let some of the practical things fall away — illness, medications, finances — and really focus on what's important.
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