Saturday, October 17, 2009

Accelerated aging in special needs caregivers

The 2009 Nobel Prize in Medicine was given for research on aging, including research on telomere shortening (a marker of accelerated aging) related to stress. When I first read of this in 2004 I learned the research was done on women caring for sick children.

Yes, fellow special needs caregiver, it’s not just your imagination. You are getting older faster.

So what can we do?

Well, first I’ll make the case for why we should invest some of our precious time to longer living. For one thing we know we’re going to be parenting until we check out. We need to stay healthy to do that, so investments in health can be justified by parenting mission as well as selfish priorities.

So you should be sure to … err … uhh …

Actually, we don’t know if there’s anything that can lesson this accelerated aging, and we’re sure there’s no way to reverse it. The best we can do is make some educated guesses …

  • Sleep may be more important than we’ve suspected. So we may need to weight it more highly than even diet or exercise. Don’t sacrifice sleep for exercise – it may be an unwise trade.
  • Don’t smoke. Of course nobody should, but it’s even worse in our situation.
  • Watch your stressing. Sometimes we treat stressing as a badge of honor, but it’s probably bad in itself.
  • Exercise.
  • Keep your social networks. Best of all – exercise with friends.
  • Eat good, eat less.

Exercise and sleep are the problem. They both suck time, and time is one of the things we don’t have. This research doesn’t help make time, but it does give us different priorities.

Oh, and probably stresses us too.

Incidentally, unless Obama’s health care reform passage works, you can expect questions from your health insurer about sick or special needs children. They’ll want to be sure to avoid insuring us …

See also

No comments: