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How to be a caregiver for others, and still care for yourself

By Christina Joseph

Mickey: We’ve been married over 57 years. Not only is she my wife, she’s really my best friend. Around 6 months ago I did have back surgery. Afterwards, Sarah just took care of me, did everything for me from driving, to getting the medication. She was my caretaker.

Sarah: My motivation to live a healthy life is to take care of myself as best as possible so that I can take care of the people I love. We’re a great believer in preventive care medicine because it keeps us healthy. There are many preventive services that Aetna allows us to take advantage of. I have my yearly annual mammograms, I have my physicals. Mickey does too.

Mickey: The Aetna Medicare Advantage program gives us access to PPO doctors, all the hospitals in network and all the providers that work in those hospitals. And when I had my back surgery, learning to walk properly again, so going to physical therapy. And that’s what the Aetna Medicare Advantage program has done for us.

Sarah: Mickey has had open heart surgery, and I had kidney cancer, at the same time. But then he took care of me, and I took care of him. Mickey was very helpful in helping me to recover because he had to really do a lot of the things that I normally do. Mickey helps me stay healthy by encouraging me to go and do things and be active. Since my family is so important to me, it makes me want to keep myself healthy so that I can spend more time with them.

Mickey: This is what the program has helped us do. To live, to live our lives, and enjoy it.

When Sarah and Mickey Solomon* got married 57 years ago, they took the phrase “in sickness and in health” to heart.

Over the course of their marriage, the pair of 78-year-olds from Roswell, GA, have taken turns caring for each other through various illnesses. That’s why they’ve always prioritized their health.

“Being a good caregiver means that we have to take care of ourselves,” says Sarah. “We're great believers in preventive care.”

To help them stay on top of their health, Sarah and Mickey make good use of their Medicare Advantage plan. They schedule annual doctor and dentist visits, as well as other routine exams, like mammograms and colonoscopies.

No one knows better than Sarah how a routine checkup can save your life. During an annual body scan with her dermatologist several years ago, Sarah pointed out what she thought was a bee sting on her leg from working in the garden a few days earlier.

“He said, ‘No, that's not a bee sting. It might be cancer,’” Sarah recalls.

More testing confirmed his diagnosis. During Sarah’s lengthy treatment and recovery from the surgery to remove the cancer, Mickey remained by her side. “He cooked for me. He brought me my breakfast, lunch and dinner. He really did everything around the house that I normally do because I wasn't able to walk on that leg,” she remembers.

Before her cancer diagnosis, Sarah had been a fixture in water aerobics class at a gym in the city. Medicare Advantage’s SilverSneakers® program covered her class fees. But by the time she’d recovered, Sarah didn’t want to travel 20 minutes to the gym anymore. Still, she needed to stay fit — for herself and for Mickey. Now, she walks three to four miles in the park with her son and granddaughter a few times a week.

“It gives me the energy to do all of the things that I like to do,” she says of the regular exercise. “It keeps me strong and healthy.”

Sarah needs that strength now that it’s her turn to give Mickey a hand. He had back surgery six months ago and is still recovering. Sarah takes him to the doctor, picks up his medicine, cooks and handles anything else that comes up.

With her help, Mickey will be back to his old routine soon, puttering around in the garden when he’s not working in the home office they share. “We’re a team,” says Mickey. “Keeping healthy lets us do all the good things in life.”

*Sarah and Mickey Solomon are Aetna members. They have given us permission to use their name and story.

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