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The Writing on the Wall

As a very young girl learning to read, I was fascinated by the decorative plaques embellishing the walls of my grandparents’ modest living room. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and “A stitch in time saves nine” were my favorites—although I must admit that, at the time, I didn’t understand what they meant. Looking back, it now seems funny to me that, for years (until I finally gave in and asked my mother to explain), I wondered what in the world I would be saving nine of, simply by making “a stitch in time.”

Something tells me that my grandparents knew those plaques served a higher purpose than that of wall covering and fascination to a little girl. In fact, I’ll bet they would be very pleased to know that those plaques made such a lasting impression on me that I am still contemplating their truth decades later and applying it to the lives of caregivers.

We know that caregivers are often exposed to an unusual degree of stress that can wreak havoc on the body’s immune system, rendering the caregiver at higher risk for serious, stress-related illnesses. To complicate matters, many caregivers are tempted to ignore or postpone their own preventive care, i.e. regular checkups and annual diagnostics such as mammograms and prostate exams. Some caregivers even believe they can wait a few days to pick up their own refills for vital medications! Caregiving is not the time to ignore one’s own preventive care. To the contrary, preventive care is critical for caregivers—not only to sustain one’s own health and quality of life, but also for that individual’s ability to provide consistent, optimum quality of care to the loved one.

The wise folks who once said that an “ounce” of prevention is worth a “pound” of cure (Benjamin Franklin) and “a stitch in time saves nine [stitches]” (Dr. Thomas Fuller) were speaking in relative, not literal, terms. Obviously prevention and cure can’t be weighed on a scale or counted in stitches. However, their points are well made and should not go unheeded: early prevention is usually far less difficult and costly than late treatment.

Please do not postpone your preventive care. Have those annual physicals and tests, and take your medications exactly as prescribed. Doing so might even be worth a ton of cure.