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Family Caregivers Get Sick Too: Be Prepared

I am my disabled husband’s caregiver. Paid caregivers come to help for two hours each morning; the rest of the day I’m in charge. Several weeks ago I caught a terrible cold. I coughed so much my stomach muscles ached. Worse, I was sleepy all the time and could barely function. This experience taught me that I have to prepare for my own illness.

Are you a family caregiver? If so, these suggestions may help you.

Check your support system. My support system isn’t as good as it used to be. Some family members moved to another state. Because my husband is disabled, we had to move from our three-level home into a one-level townhome. Although I’ve met some of the neighbors, I don’t know them. “Who would I call in case of emergency?” I asked my grandson. He said to call him or his twin sister.

Post emergency phone numbers on the fridge. When you’re really sick it’s hard to think or search for information. Post support system phone numbers on the refrigerator door. Also post the contact information for your primary care physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician this may be he time to get one.

Locate the nearest hospital. Find out where the nearest hospital is, drive there, and determine how long the trip takes. Look for the Emergency Department entrance. I did this and the nearest emergency room is 10 minutes from our home, a fact that saved my husband’s life when his aorta dissected.

Keep over-the-counter meds in the bathroom cabinet. These medications include pain relievers, cough medicine, cough drops, and artificial ears. Follow the instructions to the letter. Heed label warnings because some medications shouldn’t be taken with others.

Check the expiration date on prescribed medicine. Do not take any prescribed medications that have expired dates. Dispose of these medications. Ask your doctor to write new prescriptions for you.

Eat chicken soup. This folk remedy may help, according to “Chicken Soup: Can it Cure a Cold?” on the Mayo Clinic website. Although there is no cure for the common cold, Mayo Clinic says recent research findings suggest chicken soup may relieve nasal congestion. It is also an anti-inflammatory. I keep canned soup and unsalted chicken broth on hand.

Stock your freezer with meals. I was glad I had some frozen meals in the freezer. However, I wasn’t pleased with my choices. One frozen meal, described as healthy, was so spicy we couldn’t eat it. Several hours later my feet and eyelids began to swell due to excessive salt. Don’t make the mistake I made. Read all of the ingredients on the package before you buy frozen meals.

Stock up on extras. I used four boxes of tissues in one day when I had a cold. Now I keep a stack on hand. It’s also a good idea to have extra blankets and pillows. You may want to buy a heating pad and humidifier. The moral of this family caregiving story: Take care of yourself as carefully as you take care of your loved one.