5 Healthcare Moves Caregivers Too Often Skip for Themselves

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When was the last time you saw a doctor -- just for yourself? Caregivers who diligently take their loved one to all manner of appointments routinely overlook their own medical needs.

Some doctors will let you double up appointments so you can be treated at the same time as your loved one. Not convinced you have the time or money? Then do it for your loved one's sake. If you're not 100 percent well, you can't give 100 percent.

Here are five healthcare moves caregivers shouldn't skip (but too often do):

1. Stay up to date on immunizations. Stress can lower your immunity, so you especially need an annual flu shot. Check to make sure other adult immunizations, such as those for shingles or tetanus, are current.

2. Get an annual physical. Sure, there's debate about whether adults need one every year or not. But given that you're under a lot of pressure, probably not eating or exercising optimally, and responsible for someone else's welfare, you have plenty of reason to get a health overhaul often. Catching problems early lets you resolve them early.

3. Don't neglect vision, teeth, skin, or any special healthcare needs. Don't stop at a general health exam. The older you get, the more vulnerable you are to problems with your eyes, teeth, skin, and so on. Specialty checks can be lifesaving. And if you have a chronic disorder, be sure to keep up with the doctor(s) managing the condition(s).

4. Report worrisome new symptoms to a doctor. That bit of blood in your urine? The cough that won't go away? The leaking urine when you cough or sneeze? Don't just hope it will stop on its own. Persistent new symptoms can be clues to big problems best diagnosed and treated early.

5. Report drug side effects to a doctor. When you get a new medication or have the dosage changed, your doctor or pharmacist will forewarn you of possible side effects. When they happen, report back. Or when symptoms you didn't expect begin after a medication change, don't write them off as coincidental or "just stress." Knowledge is power to a prescribing doctor, and it can make all the difference to your well-being. Two drugs may be interacting poorly. The dosage may need adjusting, or an alternative med may need to be tried.

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio