As a family caregiver, you may find yourself facing a host of new responsibilities, many of which are unfamiliar or intimidating. At times, you may feel overwhelmed and alone. But despite its challenges, caregiving can also be rewarding. And there are a lot of things you can do to make the caregiving process easier for both you and your loved one.
Being a caregiver requires stamina and good health. The journey is more of a marathon than a sprint and you need to be in the best condition you can be. Taking care of you is essential to your own well-being, and is crucial for your loved one’s health and comfort.
Because caregiving can be very demanding, caregivers often don’t exercise enough, don’t eat a healthy diet, or delay seeking health care for themselves. Yet the demands of caregiving are precisely why a healthy lifestyle is so important. If you are in good physical and mental health, you will be able to handle the challenges that present each day and provide the best care possible. If you ignore your own health, you risk becoming ill. Maintaining your own health is an investment that will pay off for your whole family.
Nutrition affects physical and emotional health. Proper diet helps protect caregivers from stress, while poor nutrition can lead to lower immunity and disease. Poor nutrition leads to fatigue, illness and disease. Small changes in diet can have benefits for health and wellbeing. Planning menus and making shopping lists ahead of time helps a lot. It makes grocery shopping quicker and preparation time shorter. Look for tasty, easy to prepare meals. When you cook, make extra and freeze portions to use later. Try to stock up on healthy snacks and try not to purchase unhealthy ones. If you usually eat on the run, have fresh fruits, vegetables and proteins (like cheese wedges, roasted unsalted nuts or meat slices) ready in your kitchen to grab and go.
You don’t have to go to a gym to get the benefits of physical activity. The benefits of physical activity include: reduced stress, increased alertness, better sleep and more energy. Any way you move counts! You can choose activities that are appealing and meaningful to you such as:
• Stepping outside to do a little gardening.
• Taking a brisk walk around the block.
• Exercising to a DVD or video at home when you have time.
• Doing every day chores has a health benefit.
• Listening to music while doing chores can help.
We can’t over-stress enough the importance of exercise to your health. While developing an exercise plan that fits your schedule, keep these points in mind:
• Five minutes of activity several times a day adds up to a good plan for obtaining moderate exercise.
• Moderate exercise improves blood flow, enhances energy and diminishes risk for disease and injury.
• Try to walk a total of 20 minutes a day, three days a week to start, and build up to 30 minutes, five days a week.