Caregivers Need to Heed Their Own Diet, Exercise & Sleep

by Dr. Marla E. Jirak; Owner/Consultant/Coach of CoachSmart Consulting, LLC

Caring for an adult or a child with disabilities every day requires a lot of energy. Today, much of that care is done in the home by family members or caregivers so the child or adult in need can continue to live with family. Also, most families cannot afford the continued rising cost of a long-term care facility.

Day-to-day stressors associated with tasks done by caregivers can leave them physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted.

Research finds that ongoing daily stressors increases the body’s production of cortisol, a stress hormone. The over-production of this stress hormone will lead to diminished health and wellness.

The quality of care provided to a loved one is best when those providing the care are healthy and well themselves.

Health and Wellness

When referring to our “health,” our bodies want homeostasis. Our body system should be performing optimally — free of disease and sickness as well as having a normal sleep cycle. “Wellness” is more encompassing and includes health. Health experts understand a wellness lifestyle includes mental, physical, spiritual and environmental components.

There are three important area of focus to achieve optimal health and wellness — diet, exercise and sleep.

Diet and Good Nutrition

All too often care providers realize they are nearing the end of the day and could only make time for a cup of coffee. However, planning and organizing your meals ahead of time can be your best solution:

  • Buy prepared salads and add a low-calorie salad dressing.
  • Prepare containers of meals you can freeze.
  • Put together a sealed container with nuts, high protein snacks or dried fruit.

Exercise and Fitness

Having respite care hours for yourself is necessary so you can recharge. Engage in exercise for both mind and body:

  • Get outdoors and walk; nature clears the mind, walking helps physical fitness.
  • Find a few moments each day to meditate while breathing slowly.
  • Strengthen your core with light weights and exercise bands.

Optimal Sleep

As adults, we need seven hours or more of quality of sleep:

  • Take short naps during the day for 15 or 20 minutes.
  • Avoid caffeine late in the day.
  • Turn off electronics in your bedroom, including the TV.

Caregivers who focus on increasing their own health and overall wellness increase the quality of care they provide to others.