Immediately after your spiritual health, your physical well-being comes into play when you are in the position of caregiver. As someone who personally deals with chronic illness and chronic pain, I have learned in the last year that how I care for my own body will basically determine whether or not I can deal with this assignment om a physical level. Let me give you some background of my own health issues so you will understand my point of origin.
I have Hypothyroidism, Restless leg syndrome, Celiac Disease, Type II Diabetes, Metabolic syndrome, Generalized anxiety disorder, and Fibromyalgia. I don’t post this to call attention to myself. I share this as a testimony to the Lord and His provision for me. Both of my sons are now grown and as a result, my responsibilities at home are not overwhelming, unless of course, I’m having a rough day. A rough day is when my pain level reaches a 7 or higher. (1-10 scale) A normal or “good” day is when my pain level remains around a 4. To maintain that 4, I take two medications every 8 hours. I am never at 0. Basically, I am never free of pain.
Having Celiac Disease requires that I am on a strict gluten free diet, to the point that I cannot use any pots and pans but my own, to prevent cross contamination. In relation to that, I was also on a Paleo diet, to decrease the inflammation in my body and hopefully, decrease my chronic pain. This diet excludes all grains, dairy products, legumes, refined sugars, refined oils and processed foods. In addition to my gluten free cooking protocols, the paleo diet required that I prepare ALL my foods myself, as processed foods are not permitted. As a result of these dietary changes, praise God, my diabetes was under control, my blood pressure was near normal and my cholesterol was improving. My chronic pain, however, had not changed…at all. The other issues were controlled by medication.
As previously stated, I give you this information so you will have an idea of what I deal with on a daily basis in relation to my health. Now add to that being a caregiver to my mother who was slowly dying. At the outset I was commuting to my parent’s home several days a week to assist my father in her care. Two months before her death, I moved in with my parents so I could be available 24/7. In my case, this was actually easier on my body than commuting. My husband and sons were on their own, but they were adults, and they recognized the importance of my being with my parents.
With all that as background, I am going to discuss several points you need to consider as a caregiver.
- Diet – For most people, diet won’t be as big an ordeal as mine was. But it DOES need to be is nutritious. As I mentioned above, eating healthy had begun a healing in my body that reversed my diabetes, lowered my blood pressure and was bringing down my cholesterol. If I was still consuming the Standard American Diet (SAD) that would not have been the case. Eating well will increase your energy and aid your body in functioning at it’s optimum level. Why is this important? One, your loved one needs you. Your responsibility will not lessen just because you feel poorly. You need to eat well so that you are your best for your family. Secondly, and most importantly, your body is not your own.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31
What is it about us that makes us think our lives can have a spiritual side AND a secular side. The verses above make it clear that how we eat is important. I have truly regretted that myself, as I am convinced many of my health issues are due to the SAD. Years of eating poorly have damaged my health and made the task of helping my father with my mother much more difficult. I am not saying that you should eat a Paleo diet. Far from it. But do educate yourself and know what is in the food you eat. If there is a myriad of ingredients IN it, it probably should not be going in YOU. Unless those ingredients are good for you, of course. Be wise and eat well.
- Sleep – It’s important. You need to get it. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Believe me, I realize it’s not. Depending on your circumstances, it may be downright difficult. Giving medications to your loved one alone can keep you up late at night, if not during the night. It may be that a nap during the day is needed. You simply cannot do it alone. You will need someone with whom you can tag team in order that you both get a decent amount of sleep. That person may be a family member or it could be a privately paid medical professional. Certified Nursing Assistants can be hired individually or through an agency. I am simply saying that without sufficient sleep, you WILL reach a point of either illness or burnout eventually.
- Maintain a routine – This is more important than you may realize. In order for YOU to have any routine, you will need to attempt to have your loved one on a routine. Figure out a medication schedule that will give both you and your loved one the most amount of sleep. If they are struggling with sleep, ask the patient’s doctor for something to help. There are several possibilities that can be investigated. Keep meals at regular times for both of you as well as things such as baths, walks, etc. The routine will give structure to the day and your loved one will begin to depend on what comes next. When you have a routine you can better plan for what YOU need during the times the patient is less active. And with adequate rest and nutrition, when things happen out of routine, and they will, you will be better suited to handling them.
- Exercise – Formal exercise may or may not be possible. If your loved one is able to get out of the house, by all means, go for a walk together. If they are wheelchair bound, you can still take them with you while you walk. They will enjoy the fresh air and you will get many benefits from the activity. If your loved one is bedridden, honestly, caring for them will be exercise in and of itself. Take care of yourself and use proper body mechanics when moving them from place to place.
- Look your best – This may seen like an odd suggestion but I am speaking from experience. I feel refreshed physically when I shower each day. In addition, while you want to dress comfortably, dress nicely. If you wear make up, put some on. Earrings make me feel pulled together. Without them, I feel somewhat naked. I have no idea where that comes from, but for me, simple earrings, a little make-up and well kept hair made me look and feel better. I was available if inexpected visitors came to the door. I was also ready for any emergency that may arise that required a trip to the doctor or ER.
- Ask for help – Allow those of the body of Christ to minister to YOU while you serve your loved ones. Friends from my parent’s church brought food each and every week. I wasn’t able to eat that food myself, but my parents could. When visitors come, take advantage of that time and grab a few minutes yourself to eat or even take a walk around the yard. Consider hiring a cleaning person if that is an option for your family. One more possibility is hiring a young person, like a mother’s helper, to come and help with some household duties while you care for your loved one. Don’t allow your pride to keep you from asking. You need their help and they WANT to help you! Let them bless you. I built some lasting friendships with some of the women I met through my parents.
I cannot emphasize enough how important these things were in pushing me through each day. The fact that I had my own health issues played a large part in the need for the proper diet, adequate sleep and exercise. The routine allowed me to move through my day more smoothly. My father and I took turns with my mother so each of us had time to shower, eat and catch a nap if necessary. There were plenty times some small disaster would throw things off kilter, but that is life.
Don’t neglect your own physical well being in your efforts to care for your loved one. If you are not well, you will be of no use to them. I hope these suggestions will cause you to consider how important your health is as you tend to those you love. You are undertaking one of the most difficult tasks The Lord will ever ask of you. Go into it with an open mind and obtain the physical help you need to accomplish His will WELL. He will provide for your every need. All you need to do is ask and then allow Him to guide you each step of the way.
Do you have anything to add? I’d love to hear from you, get a conversation going. Just know I am available.
Tomorrow, Day 3, we will discuss some financial issues as they relate to being in the care giving role. I’d love to have you back!