Self-Care for Women Who Are Caregivers
Caregivers often put their own health and wellness on the backburner to focus on caring for a loved one. But the health consequences of ignoring important health screenings can be significant.
Regular visits to your physician help you stay on track with important midlife preventative screenings. They are key to helping your physician identify and intervene in potential problems—such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease—as early as possible.
Women’s Health Guidelines
Here’s what primary care physicians and health organizations typically recommend as prevention guidelines for women over the age of 50, who account for a high percentage of caregivers:
- Yearly physical: This will give the physician an opportunity to check your blood pressure, screen for depression (not uncommon among caregivers), assess cognitive well-being, look for possible signs of skin cancer, and conduct an overall wellness check. A primary care doctor might order blood tests for vitamin deficiencies, cholesterol, hepatitis, and diabetes screening.
- Yearly well-woman visit: A gynecologist will perform an exam to detect any abnormalities. They will also screen for HPV and cervical cancer every three to five years based on personal history. Gynecologists are often the specialists who order a yearly mammogram and a bone density screening every few years based on health status.
- Colon cancer screening: Depending on your family history and personal medical history, physicians typically suggest colon cancer screenings beginning at age 50. It could be a colonoscopy, considered to be the gold standard, or a newer screening test like Cologuard.
Vaccines for Women Over 50
Many people skip getting vaccinated for reasons ranging from a fear of needles to unfounded concerns about adverse reactions (e.g., getting the flu from the flu shot). But vaccines offer the strongest defense against developing some serious health conditions.
If you are a caregiver, you can unknowingly pass an illness on to your senior loved one who might already have a weakened immune system.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adults over the age of 50 speak with their physician about these four vaccines:
- Influenza vaccine: This is a yearly vaccine to lower the odds of catching the flu. Caregivers can also help their senior loved one avoid getting the flu by ensuring they get vaccinated, too. The CDC says that between 71 and 85 percent of flu-related deaths each year are adults 65 years and older, and 54 to 70 percent of flu-related hospital admissions are people in that same age group.
- Tdap vaccine: This vaccine guards against several deadly illnesses: tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. The physician might recommend a booster every 10 years thereafter.
- Shingles vaccine: A newer vaccine called Shingrix is highly effective at preventing both shingles and a painful complication of shingles known as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). Since one in three adults will develop shingles in their lifetime, this vaccine should be high on your list to speak with your doctor about.
- Pneumococcal vaccine: Also talk with your doctor about the pneumococcal vaccine. It helps guard against pneumonia and infections in the lungs and bloodstream. The general age recommendation for this vaccine is 65, but younger caregivers with chronic health conditions might also need it.
National Women’s Health & Fitness Day
In honor of National Women’s Health & Fitness Day on September 26, we at Sunrise Senior Living encourage you share this information with the women in your life, especially those who are caregivers!