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Putting Yourself on the Priority List


When you’re responsible for someone else’s care – whether it’s an older parent, child, spouse, or another loved one – it can be far too easy to neglect your own health. But to do the best job as a caregiver, it’s important to put yourself on the priority list. Staying physically and emotionally healthy can help you reduce your stress level, better manage the responsibilities of caregiving and improve your quality of life. 


Medical appointments are essential for the person you’re caring for – and they’re just as essential for you. Making time to visit your doctor regularly can help you avoid problems before they arise. One way to ease the stress of medical visits is to find a doctor you feel comfortable talking to. You’ll want to select a doctor who will help you take steps to prevent problems or catch them early, rather than wait to treat conditions after they arise.  Once you have found the right doctor, schedule regular check-ups and make sure you get the appropriate vaccines and screening tests at the right times. These include regular weight checks, blood pressure readings at least every two years, and a complete blood lipid panel at least every five years. In addition, talk to your doctor about when you should have the following tests:

  • A fasting blood sugar test (usually every three years after age 45)
  • Regular screenings for colon and rectal cancers, beginning at age 50
  • Regular skin exams to look for signs of skin cancer
  • An eye exam every three to five years
  • Dental check-ups twice a year
  • For men: Screening for prostate cancer (beginning at age 50)
  • For women: Screening for breast cancer (with a mammogram) every year or two (usually beginning at age 40); annual pelvic exams and a Pap test at least every two to three years; regular thyroid tests after age 45; and a bone density test after menopause.


When it comes to general lifestyle, men and women alike should make an effort to develop and practice the same healthy habits, including:

  • Eating a balanced, nutritious diet
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Quitting smoking
  • Managing stress and negative emotions
  • Striving to maintain a good work-life balance
  • Developing positive, supportive relationships
  • Exercising regularly