Self Caring

Is Caregiving Making You Old Before Your Time?

Last updated:

March 22, 2011
Birthday Cake 2

Caregivers often feel like their prime years are being wasted away while they care for a loved one (regardless of whether they're happy or resentful about doing it).

Some comments I've heard:

  • "I just got the kids out of the house, and now Mother has moved in. So much for the empty nest."
  • "We should be enjoying retirement, but he got sick and taking care of everything is making me sick."
  • "This is killing me."
  • "By the time the Alzheimer's is finished with my wife, I'll be an old man."

Depending on your perspective, you may have more time in your prime than you're thinking. In a survey by Scotland's Future Forum, four out of ten 75-year-olds say they think of themselves as "middle aged." At 75!

Can you be a middle-aged septugenarian? Maybe, if "50 is the new 30," as is often said lately. And record numbers of adults are living to 100.

The average caregiver in the U.S. is 49 -- so although the job may be aging you rapidly, that would place almost thirty years of "midlife" still ahead of you!

That's one way to look at it, anyway.

Obviously the real issue isn't number of years but quality of life. You can be a young 50 or an old 50, a midlife 75 or a decrepit 75, a hip, engaged 95-year-old or a dead one. If caregiving is sapping your health and well being, you'll have less quality of life no matter how many birthdays remain. And that's the best argument yet for making yourself a priority. Give selflessly, but don't forget to be a little selfish.

How about making that long-postponed doctor's appointment -- for you? Calling your local area agency on aging to arrange some help? Hectoring your sibling or adult child to help you? Taking a walk?

Do something for yourself today. This isn't only the beginning of spring, it's the first day of the rest of your midlife.