Mary is the primary caregiver for her husband, Scott, whose
complications from a hip surgery four years ago have left him non-ambulatory
and in a wheelchair. He uses a Hoya lift for transfers and requires total care
for bathing and getting dressed.
As caregivers taking care of an aging parent or loved one,
people like Mary have taken on a meaningful and important role that sends a
great message of love and loyalty. However, caregiving duties can take up a
significant part of a person’s life. According to the Family Caregiver
Alliance, a caregiver’s role, on average, lasts four years, while Alzheimer's
and dementia caregivers often provide up to eight years of care.
If you’re a caregiver, you are probably known for being
resilient and strong. Caregivers make incredible time sacrifices, spending 13
days per month on tasks such as shopping, food preparation, housekeeping,
laundry, transportation, and giving medication; and 6 days per month on
feeding, dressing, grooming, walking, bathing and other vital activities.
In addition, caregivers often find themselves in challenging
situations. As a result, health issues such as stress, frustration, and
depression are actually amplified: four in 10 caregivers consider their
caregiving situation to be highly stressful, and nearly half of higher-hour
caregivers find their role emotionally stressful, per the Family Caregiver
Alliance. Not only do you have to take care of your own finances, you often
have to communicate for your patient to doctors, lawyers and agencies asking
complicated questions that you might not always know the answer to. Like many
caregivers, Mary felt emotionally and physically exhausted.
While caregivers’ lives are radically (and sometimes
unexpectedly) changed by caring for an aging loved one, they are also put in a
uniquely difficult position as sympathy and concern tend to focus solely on the
In order to begin the journey of taking care of yourself as a
caregiver, we encourage you to follow these five tips:
Make sure that you have access to important medical and legal documents, and
keep them organized and up to date to ensure that medical visits and
consultations go as smoothly as possible.
Caregivers tend to be in worse physical shape compared to non-caregivers, due
to mental health problems coupled with the physical strains of caregiving
taking a toll on their body. It’s crucial to stay healthy yourself in order to
provide the best care to your loved one. Take breaks, exercise, eat healthy
food and drink plenty of water.
Keep up on your own doctor’s visits; let your PCP know that you
are a caregiver and don’t hesitate to mention any symptoms or concerns you
Maintain good mental health by using stress relief techniques
such as meditation, a simple way to calm your mind and lessen the stress of
caring for a loved one. There are many online resources, such as those found on
to help you learn how to meditate and provide daily meditations.
Find support: Find
out if there are caregiver resources in your community such as support groups
where you can share experiences and discuss solutions with others who
understand what you’re going through. Make an effort to stay connected with
family and friends who can offer you emotional support, such as getting
together once a week to take a walk.
In Mary’s case, while at a Medicare Fair with Scott, she
connected with a Behavioral Health Case Manager at the Beacon Health Options
Behavioral Health information table. Beacon is BCBSRI's behavioral health services partner for
assisting BCBSRI members.
She expressed a desire to speak with someone about accessing
counseling services and provided her contact information for a follow-up call.
Always say yes when someone offers to help. You can also be proactive by
creating a list of ways that others can help you, such picking up groceries,
providing transportation or cooking a healthy dinner.
Mary’s case manager not only referred her to an individual
clinician within the community, she also facilitated a referral for in-home
Visiting Nurse services, including a complete Nursing/Safety Evaluation,
Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and certified nursing assistant
services. Beacon continued to follow up with Mary and Scott to ensure that
services were in place and their needs were met.
Know that you are valued and appreciated:
Being a caregiver can be very rewarding, but there will be tough times where
you feel underappreciated or that things aren’t getting better, no matter how
hard you try. Take time to pat yourself on the back for taking on one of the
toughest jobs there is. This is a unique situation and you’re doing the best
Managing the stress in your life is just as important as any of
your other responsibilities. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be
able to care for anyone else.
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) is
dedicated to supporting caregivers and those they care for. Our caregiver website
provides helpful tips for taking care of your loved one and yourself. You’ll
also discover local and national organizations that offer support for caregivers.
There are BCBSRI case managers available at each of our Your Blue Store
locations in East Providence, Warwick and Lincoln to discuss plan questions,
manage member needs and help find solutions to care needs.
Because Mary sought support and accepted help when it was
offered to her, she and her husband not only see improvement in their
individual health and wellness needs, but also their relationship with each
other. Please feel free to talk with us at BCBSRI about the needs of your loved
one, but also about how we can help you take care of your health needs as well.
BCBSRI Case Management can be reached at 459-CARE (2273).