I bet many of you who read this blog are caregivers. It’s an important role in life, but it’s no easy task to care of a loved one. The holidays can make the challenges harder and much more emotional.

Caregiving can take a toll on health, much like a bad diet, smoking or other harmful lifestyle factors. It’s important that caregivers take steps to counteract the stresses they face.

Adrienne Levy, a registered nurse for more than three decades, understands the importance of caregiver support. During the holidays, caring for a loved one can be especially overwhelming. Caregivers need help, too.

(Adrienne Levy)

“Self-care is underrated, but necessary – it’s only when you take care of yourself that you can successfully provide support for friends and family members,” says Levy, who works in Boca Raton for Genzyme’s MS One to One program. The program provides personalized support to people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) and their caregivers.

Levy offers these tips to help ease caregiving challenges this holiday season.

Communicate. It’s important for caregivers to keep open lines of communication with those they care for. By talking with one another, you are likely to approach situations appropriately and be on same page when making care-related decisions.

Call for reinforcement. Realize that you are not superman or superwoman. You can’t do everything for everyone, all the time. It’s important to ask for help when you need it.

You might find help by attending support group events where you can learn about caregiving from others’ experiences. You could also tap programs that offer information and guidance about providing care to people managing specific diseases or conditions.

Take a break to do something you enjoy. Providing care to another person can be a very draining experience. Caregivers need to find outlets to relieve stress, relax and stay positive.

Do what makes you feel good, whether that’s going to the gym, watching a funny movie or having dinner with friends.

There are lots of caregivers out there. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that in 2012, 15.4 million family and friends provided 17.5 billion hours of unpaid care to people with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

More than 60 percent of Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high. More than one-third report having symptoms of depression.

Due to the physical and emotional toll of caregiving, Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers had $9.1 billion in additional health care costs of their own in 2012 – and that’s just one disease group.

Imagine, how many caregivers there are in our community, around the nation and around the world.

Organizations, like the Alzheimer’s Association, offer resources for caregivers. Check with local associations to see what they can offer to help you better meet the demands of caregiving.

To learn more about MS One to One visit http://www.MSOnetoOne.com, or call 1-855-MSOne2One (1-855-676-6326).

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

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About Lisette
Lisette Hilton, president of Words Come Alive, has had the luxury of reporting on health, fitness and other hot topics for more than 23 years. The longtime Boca Raton resident, University of Florida graduate and fitness buff writes for local, regional and national publications and websites. Find out more on www.wordscomealive.com.