I would like to thank Florida Blue for this article which was published on their website today.
Chris MacLellan is among the estimated 65.7 million caregivers in the U.S., so he has a lot of people who can understand the challenges of caring for a loved one. However, sometimes he’s felt completely alone.
“Just as the caree needs support, caregivers need their own support system to help them get through the ups and downs of the caregiving experience,” said Chris. “I found out that if I can’t take care of myself, how can I take care of my partner?”
Research tells us that caregiving can have serious physical health consequences. In fact, 17% of caregivers feel their health in general has gotten worse as a result of their caregiving responsibilities.*
Chris knows all about the toll that caregiving can inflict upon his own health. In past years, he has cared for a close friend and he now cares for his partner, who was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2011. He describes these experiences as “life changing.”
But what also changed during these experiences was his weight. While he cared for others, he struggled with using food as comfort instead of fuel. At one point in Chris’ life he weighed almost 300 lbs. – and he knew he was at a breaking point. Through diligent efforts, he lost 100 lbs. and continues the battle to keep it off. However, due to the recent stress of his partner’s diagnosis and subsequent caregiving duties, his weight has started to rise once again.
“I knew I had to make a permanent change in my weight,” he said. “If I am to be a healthy caregiver, I have to take better care of myself.”
Chris now is a big believer in caregivers taking care of their physical and mental health. He also realizes that like him, other caregivers often put their own personal needs second, which often turns into weight gain or other health problems..
In February of 2011, he began writing a blog to share his caregiving story and
create awareness. Today, an interactive online community of caregivers also thrives as a result of his outreach. He calls his blog The Purple Jacket, where you’ll find his passion for caregiving, personal experiences and struggles, and advocacy efforts. Plus, the blog has blossomed into a full-scale resource for caregivers with a focus on the specific challenges of the LGBT community.
“I am a communicator, not a clinician,” Chris says. “My passion for increasing awareness about caregiving has been my mental therapy, of sorts. Sharing my life has helped others…and me, too.”
So, after all, Chris is not alone.
Take a virtual ride with Chris
On January 20th, Chris will kick off a virtual ride, tweeting from his stationary bike about improving his personal health while continuing to raise awareness for fellow caregivers. His goal to lose weight is teamed with reaching other caregivers to motivate them to focus on their own health. Florida Blue will follow Chris’s ride on Twitter, so be sure to help us cheer him on!
We understand the importance of making your health a priority, especially if you’re a caregiver. To help you make the difficult decision to focus on your own health, we invite you to stop by one of our Florida Blue Centers, where one of our staff nurses will speak with you about your personal health challenges. You can even get a your blood pressure checked, have a cholesterol and blood glucose screening, check your height and weight, and more.
And, don’t forget to visit Staying Healthy on floridablue.com for great tips and guidance.
Be sure to tell us about your caregiving experiences, below. We want you to know you are not alone…
- Caregivers: It’s Time To Get Healthy with ‘VRide’ (thepurplejacket.com)
- Caregivers: How Do We Listen at the End of Life? (thepurplejacket.com)
- It’s Time to Get Healthy with VRide (caregiving.com)
- Every Day: Set An Intention For Yourself. (thepurplejacket.com)
- What Is The Best Thing For Me, The Caregiver? (thepurplejacket.com)