I finally did it. After more than two years with two painful teeth, I finally got my dental checkup and teeth cleaning! Unfortunately, my delay has caused the need for two new crowns. I've always done this regularly, but since I started intensive caregiving that has gone down the drain (as have my other regular checkups). I feel like I should be at a support group meeting saying, "My name is Amy, and I'm a caregiver who has neglected my own health." I know I'm not the only one ... and today is National Women's Checkup Day, so I decided to come clean. Any other caregivers out there want to join me in fessing up?!
National Women's Checkup Day is a nationwide effort, coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health, to encourage women to schedule and receive checkups. Regular checkups are vital to the early detection of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, mental health illnesses, sexually transmitted infections and other conditions.
Join the discussion: Caregivers - Challenges and Advice
This is an especially important issue for women who are caregivers. We tend to be so busy and depleted, juggling caregiving, our families and many of us are also working too. We relegate our own needs to the bottom of the list.
So how can we, as caregivers, move our own checkups, immunizations and regular screenings up the list? I'll tell you what worked for me: Barb, a dear friend from college who is also a caregiver, left me a voice mail and compassionately, but firmly, said (repeatedly), "You are amazing, but you have to get your teeth cleaned, you have to do the things you need to do for you." I know she has the same challenges, and knowing she took the time to call me was motivating. Or maybe it was just nice to have someone else tell me what to do when I am so tired of making decisions. Whatever it was, the direct support of a friend did the trick this time.
Here are some other suggestions to help you keep up with your regular checkups:
- Enlist friends and family: Ask for gentle reminders - and reinforcement when you make the appointment!
- Schedule ahead: When you see a doctor, schedule your next appointment before you leave the office.
- Use technology: Check out the myriad apps and websites that offer free reminders:
- Sign up for reminder emails from the American Cancer Society for screenings; some laboratories, such as Quest Diagnostics, send health reminder emails for women's health, diabetes, heart disease and more; many health care systems or insurance companies offer free reminders for a variety of checkups and screenings.
- If you have a Smartphone, look for a "Reminders" app where you can list tasks and set reminder dates, times and sounds.
- Use a "to-do" list app such as Producteev, Toodledo or Astrid; make a list for your health-related tasks (and schedule alerts).
Stay tuned for more tips for caregivers in my upcoming book, Juggling Work and Caregiving available this fall.
It was a real relief to get my teeth checked. Now, I'm going to call and schedule my (behind schedule) mammogram! Hope you'll do the same.
Amy Goyer is AARP's Home & Family Expert; she splits her time between Washington, D.C. and Phoenix, Ariz. where she is caregiving for both of her parents who live with her. Follow Amy on Twitter @amygoyer and on Facebook.