Be a Healthy Caretaker-Part One

Author: Shannon Miller

By guest blogger Tammy Badida:

“Nearly three quarters (72%) of family caregivers report not going to the doctor as often as they should and 55% say they skip doctor appointments for themselves. 63% of caregivers report having poor eating habits than non-caregivers and 58% indicate worse exercise habits than before caregiving responsibilities.”

Source: Evercare Study of Caregivers in Decline: A Close-Up Look at Health Risks of Caring for a Loved One. National Alliance for Caregiving and Evercare. 2006

Nobody likes being part of a statistic, but honestly I fell into every one of these categories. Before my husband’s illness, I used to be an avid tennis player, exerciser, and conscious eater.  After finally getting back on schedule with my yearly checkup after a two-year “leave of absence,” I was shocked at the state I had let my body get to. In just two short years, at the age of 45, I had developed high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol (not the good kind, either!), and weight gain of…well, let’s just say it was over 20 pounds.

I will concede that time is at a premium for the caretaker, but one of my biggest mistakes was giving up my healthy habits. I thought that because I didn’t have the time for the old exercise routine that I shouldn’t bother with exercising at all. Looking back, I should’ve had a much different mindset.

First and foremost, I cannot stress the importance of keeping your regular doctor’s appointments. That means not avoiding the gynecologist, yearly mammograms, and even the good ole colonoscopy. While prevention isn’t always possible, early detection is. You owe it to yourself and your family to keep up with your physical health. Often times, because caretakers’ symptoms don’t seem as severe as those of our loved ones, we shrug them off. I urge you not to do this.  Your goal is to keep yourself as healthy as possible so that you can fulfill your role to the best of your ability.

As much as I may not have liked to admit it after a long day at the hospital, there is always a substitute for the “old” or “normal” routine. While I was not able to play tennis and exercise the way I was accustomed to, looking back, there were plenty of things I could have done to work up a sweat and get my cardio going. One of the unavoidable alternatives is to take the stairs whenever possible. Hospitals and doctor’s offices can have you running from floor to floor on any given day, and it’s tempting to push that button and get on that elevator. Ask a help desk for directions to the stairs. Each choice to “hoof it” is a good choice.

There were many times when my husband, Nick, would have MRIs or CT scans that would last from 1-3 hours. While that waiting room couch might be comfy, it will benefit you all the more to step outside and get some fresh air, or take a walking tour of the hospital grounds. Believe it or not, some hospitals have some pretty neat things to see. In most cases, the technicians will be glad to keep your cell phone number at hand if they need to reach you when the patient is done.

We don’t have any excuse to keep off our feet! This is all the more true at home, too. When your loved one is resting or sleeping, take that time to do something physical and get those endorphins going. I completely understand that some caretakers simply don’t have the luxury of leaving the house to exercise when they would like to. If you have one of those video game systems (Wii, Xbox, etc.), there are a ton of fun and beneficial fitness “games” that’ll give you a good laugh and a good workout. If the new-fangled technology isn’t your thing, check out any one of the at-home exercise DVDs from Shannon Miller Lifestyle. You can find a “new routine” from your living room that just might beat the old one.

Be sure to come back next Tuesday and read part two of “Be a Healthy Caretaker.”

“ I have to exercise in the morning before my brain figures out what I’m doing!” – Anonymous

Article by Tammy Badida

Tammy’s story of “Learning to Live” during a life-changing battle has encouraged and reached so many already and can be found at:

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