Senior caregivers tirelessly take care of their elderly clients — but not without sometimes paying a price. Tired? Sure. Achy? It’s to be expected. But sometimes your body is warning you of a more pressing problem. Here are some symptoms that may signal the need for a closer look.
1. Persistent stomach pain can be a sign that your job sucks, or it can be something more serious. If you have constant indigestion, alternating constipation or diarrhea, a feeling of fullness all the time, or pain in one spot or another that never goes away, off to the doctor you must go. It’s worth the time and trouble to determine what’s going on so you can eat and sleep again.
2. Back pain is normal for caregivers, unfortunately, but back or neck pain combined with weakness in an extremity or tingly, burning nerve pain is a sign that you’ve messed something up. Don’t work until you’ve figured it out. I speak from experience on this point, as I once had one arm just sort of stop working after I’d lifted too much weight too often. It was scary and painful, but ultimately fixable. Don’t play with your spine; it’s kind of important.
3. Take care of your feet and hands. Bone spurs, plantar fasciitis, arthritis, or plain old achiness and stiffness compromise your ability to work. Open wounds, torn cuticles or cracks in the skin of your hands can be avenues for infection. Keep fingernails and toenails short and filed. Bandage anything that might get dirt or worse in it. Remember to wear gloves, and wash your hands in lukewarm rather than hot water. Hospital soap is hard on some people, so see if maybe you can use your own. Change your shoes around frequently, and invest in good-quality orthotics if you need to. If your feet hurt, nothing feels right.
4. Daily headaches, tooth grinding or changes in vision should never be ignored. Maybe you need a neurological workup or a dental guard; maybe you just need a massage. Either way, that thing that sits atop your neck should be pampered.
5. Finally, if you’re snotty and coughing, achy or running a fever, or have a sore throat that won’t quit, please please please stay home. Even those of us who aren’t immunocompromised will thank you.
While you take care of others, make sure you take care of yourself. Senior caregivers are a precious commodity. If you know someone who would make a great caregiver, refer them to Caregiverlist so they can be part of a great team.
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