One of the most stressful situations of our lives is being placed in a “caretaker” role for an elderly family member. It seems that more and more I am hearing stories from my patients about them being thrust into a situation where an elderly parent(s) becomes ill, can no longer live on his/her own, assisted living or skilled nursing care is too expensive and the ill parent is moved into the household. Many of these patients are also working full time AND have children at home that require their attention/resources as well.
The stress of this “caretaking” situation is incredibly high and in turn, this will often derail the caretaker’s own efforts to focus on her/himself. This is especially true when it comes to trying to muster a concerted effort to control weight. How is it possible to count protein exchanges, monitor water intake, find exercise time and do all of the other “essentials” for weight control when the main focus is on caretaking others? “Mission impossible” it seems.
It is VERY important that all of us need to be a “caretaker” of ourselves. Sort of like they tell you before the plane takes off: “Place the oxygen mask on yourself first…”: The message is that if you do not take care of yourself, you may succumb to something very bad that will preclude you from being able to caretake others.
Of course, the reality of a caretaker situation is such that this ability to focus on yourself becomes much more difficult. As an example, personally for me, both my parents are deceased, my children are post-college and I am not “caretaking” anyone (except my patients of course….and all of you are “low maintenance”, right?) so it is easy for me to focus on weight control. The 55 year old person that still is putting kids through college, holds a full time job and now has 89 year old Mom with dementia and a bunch of medical problems living with them faces an incredibly challenging situation.
I am not sure I have words of wisdom for making these situations easier other than imploring those people in caretaking roles to try to find ways of having others (relatives or hired people) to share the caretaking role allowing for you to have some more time to focus on you and your own health. Please try to not allow “guilt” to enter the picture as once again, if you do not stay/get healthy, you will not be in the position to help/caretake anyone else.
Being a “caretaker” is not an easy role nor is it conducive for “checking all the boxes” needed to successfully control weight. However, please take some time to think through your specific situation and what can be done to free up some time needed to “caretake” YOU.