Let’s Not Forget Self-care for the Caregiver

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by Annie Dixon |

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It is a familiar adage that those who give care often neglect to take care of themselves. They may feel, in comparison to their charges, that their needs are smaller or less pressing. Or, after long hours of tending to the needs of others, they may simply lack time and energy to address their own with adequate self-care.

Whatever the reason, we in the chronic illness community are sometimes made acutely aware of this irony. Rather than ignore it, perhaps we can embrace this fact with the guiding principles of some other well-known aphorisms.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander

I probably overreact to risks concerning my husband’s vulnerabilities due to his illness. But with atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS), the stakes are high. I don’t like to take chances, even small ones. So, I try to protect him from possible triggers such as other illnesses or food poisoning.

He had always hunkered down during flu season, prudently avoiding crowds and gatherings. Now, add to that his overactive immune system and a pandemic and we have become hermits the past couple of winters. Not only has he not been hospitalized since his initial diagnosis, but also neither of us has had so much as a bad cold since the onset of his aHUS six years ago.

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We both used to take risks with food, although he had been adventurous and I tended toward the frugal. Thus, he sampled all sorts of exotic grub when we went out, and I ignored a few expiration dates in our own pantry and fridge. We have kicked both of those habits. Again, I share in the benefits, as we have a healthier diet, and neither of us has suffered any food poisoning.

My favorite vice was not a shared one, however. I used to like to get a tan. Nothing excessive, just a few minutes in a booth or a bed to take that pale anemic look away. But then I watched my husband battle real anemia. It struck me as foolish to tempt fate in pursuit of a healthy glow that might actually cause skin cancer. If he could forgo unnecessary risks, so could I.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

It really is easier to prevent problems than it is to solve them. This is especially true with our own health. But when taking care of a patient with a complicated disease, it is easy for caretakers to overlook this simple truth in their own lives.

I had never bothered with a flu shot simply because it’s a shot and it was optional. But that changed when my husband was diagnosed with aHUS. His need to avoid exposure to other illnesses has made me more proactive in my own self-care. Now, in between dealing with his prescriptions and appointments with specialists, I get my flu shot, go for a checkup, and take my vitamins.

Take care of the little things

It would be nice if taking care of the little things actually caused the big things to take care of themselves. I don’t think that old saying is quite true. But taking care of the little things in my life does provide me with the strength and stamina to give care.

Note: aHUS News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of aHUS News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to aHUS.


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