Taking Care of the Caregiver

Day in and day out thousands of Caregivers spend endless hours making sure their loved one is well fed and hydrated, receives adequate sleep, and remains as active and happy as possible. However, do Caregivers take the time to assure they enjoy the same basic healthy lifestyle?

When discussing the creation of health in your life, it is important to know and remember that you must take care of yourself so that you can take care of others in your life. This is similar to the Airplane Philosophy that we listen to each time we fly on an airplane when we are told, in case of an emergency, to place the oxygen mask on yourself before placing it on your child.

The World Health Organization defines health as: A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
So what steps can caretakers take to attain and maintain adequate physical, mental and social well-being in their lives?

Let’s start with nutrition! Food and water are essential to life, although not all foods and beverages help us maintain good health. It is important to make healthy food and beverage choices from the five food groups which include fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods and dairy to get the nutrients you need. Following these general guidelines will help:
➢ Make half your plate fruits and vegetables, focusing on fruits without added sugar or syrup and a variety of vegetables (eat fresh fruits and vegetables when possible).
➢ Make at least half your breads and grains whole grains.
➢ Eat low-fat or fat-free dairy.
➢ Eat lean meats, poultry and protein foods; include non-meat proteins in your diet weekly (seafood, beans/legumes).
➢ Choose foods and beverages low in saturated fat, sodium and added sugars (use Nutrition Facts Labels to help identify these items).
➢ Drink water daily and avoid sugary beverages.

Attaining and maintaining a healthy weight is often overlooked as part of living a healthy lifestyle. Obesity has many dangerous consequences: Cardiovascular disease (Stroke, Hypertension, Hear Attack), Diabetes, Cancer, Asthma, Sleep Apnea, Kidney Disease, Orthopedic Disease, Cirrhosis, and Dementia just to name a few. So it is vital for caretakers to work towards maintaining a healthy weight with the inclusion of a healthy diet in their daily routine. There are many professionals (Dietitians, Health Coaches, and Physicians) and programs that are available to help those in need of assistance.

Sleep, or lack of it, has recently been the subject of many studies and discussions among health care professionals. Millions of Americans have trouble with sleep. Lack of sleep leads to a 15% less life expectancy, 30-50% increase in obesity, and contributes to impaired immune function, hypertension, heart disease and mood disorders. So, caretakers must be aware of the amount of sleep they are receiving.

Sleep is nature’s reset button as it replenishes our brain and body. In addition, sleep helps accelerate learning. One should try to get 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night. The highest quality sleep results from going to bed at 10 to 10:30 pm. Some tips to help you fall asleep and stay asleep include:
➢ Turning off technology 30 minutes before going to bed
➢ Making sure your bedroom is completely dark
➢ Turning down the thermostat to 68-70 degrees
➢ Limit caffeine: avoiding after noon
➢ Avoid alcohol within 90 minutes of bedtime
➢ Avoid exercise within two hours of bedtime
➢ Set a bedtime: try to go to bed at the same time each night

Finally, our discussion on health would be incomplete without a mention of stress reduction and exercise. Stress can weaken a person’s immune system, raise blood pressure, affect brain function/memory, and can create increased appetite with cravings for sugar and fat. Thus, stress can lead to quite an unhealthy life. One way to help reduce or control stress in our lives is through physical exercise, meditation, participation in outside activities (other than work…volunteering, recreation) and socializing or talking with friends and family.

One last word on exercise which is so vital in helping us attain optimal health. Movement or exercise is important to help us maintain our weight, enjoy good heart health, and generally feel good. Healthy movement can also help us deal with the many stresses of everyday life, as mentioned above. It is important to know there is not one exercise that fits everyone’s needs. That is, each person should choose a form of exercise/movement that fits his or her lifestyle, with the approval of their physician, whether that may be walking, running or working out at a gym, just to name a few. In general, one should strive to do some kind of exercise for 30 minutes at least 5 days per week.

The importance of the Caregiver in our society can’t be emphasized enough. It is equally important that those vital Caregivers take care of themselves so that they can continue to care for those that rely on them each and every day!

I would be honored to help any Caregiver or others to improve their health. Please feel free to contact me or pass along my contact information to those who may need assistance.

In Health,
Linda Siesel

Linda Siesel MMSc, RD, LD
Certified Health Coach
Office: (727) 470-7676
Cell: (727) 433-3885
Click here to see what I do!

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