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Published January 19, 2013, 11:34 PM

Drs. Oz and Roizen: Caring for the caregiver

Q I’m in California, and my folks live in Massachusetts. Mom had a stroke that paralyzed her left side, but now I’m concerned about Dad. He’s 78 and insists he can handle everything, but I can tell that caring for her is hard on him. What can I do from here to help?

By: Mehmet Oz, M.D., and Michael Roizen, M.D. , INFORUM

Q I’m in California, and my folks live in Massachusetts. Mom had a stroke that paralyzed her left side, but now I’m concerned about Dad. He’s 78 and insists he can handle everything, but I can tell that caring for her is hard on him. What can I do from here to help? – Crystal C., Riverside, Calif.

A Most of us, at some point, will become caregivers – more than 44 million North Americans do every year. And your dad (like any caregiver) needs to be reminded that it’s important for him to take care of himself. This isn’t selfish; it demonstrates his love for Mom, because then he’ll have more energy to care for her. And if he gets worn out, he may even develop health problems himself.

So, in addition to encouraging him to take care of himself, here’s how you can support him.

Share the load: Help Dad set up a team of family, friends and professional caregivers, such as licensed companions or visiting nurses, who can pitch in with household duties as well as Mom’s special physical needs.

Write out a list of tasks that your dad could use help with, from going grocery shopping to vacuuming and laundry. Then identify people who will help. Your goal is to free him up so he can get physical activity as often as possible, see friends without worrying about Mom and recuperate from the stress of having to help your mother with all her physical needs.

Arrange meals: It’s easy to miss a meal when you’re focused on caring for someone else, but good nutrition is as essential for your dad as it is for your mom. See if neighbors can bring over meals regularly or if there is a Meals On Wheels program in his area.

Get Dad into a support group: The Family Caregiver Alliance has a state-by-state listing of local support groups. They’ll give him a chance to talk about his concerns, to get tips from others in similar situations and to find out about caregiver-assistance programs.

And now that you’re a caregiver, make sure to take care of yourself, too.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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