Self-care is defined as the extent to which an individual, family or community engages in any activity with the intention of improving health, preventing disease, managing conditions, and restoring health.1 Research has documented that caregiving can be very demanding and over time may lead to poorer health for the caregiver. Often caregivers are the sole care providers for their loved one. Therefore, while it is important as a caregiver to ensure the needs of the care recipient, it is also vital to take care of yourself. This section will focus on the physical self-care needs of the caregiver, specifically exercise and nutrition.Click a link below to jump to that section:
Exercise & Nutrition
Caregiving makes physical, emotional, mental and social demand on the caregiver. These demands can lead to stress which over time can increase risk of illness, depression and burnout. It is important for a caregiver to focus time on caring for themselves as well as providing care for the care receiver. Two areas of importance to self-care are exercise and proper nutrition.
Benefits of Exercise2
- Exercise has a positive effect on all systems of the body.
- Exercise increases the heart muscle allowing the heart to pump blood and decrease resting blood pressure.
- Regular aerobic exercise is exercise that can be carried out continuously (swimming, brisk walking, dancing)
- Aerobic exercise increases the capacity of the lungs.
- The strengthening of the back and legs improves muscle endurance.
- Improving bone health provides better support for the body and better posture which reduces the chances of injury.
- Weight bearing exercise (running, walking, weight lifting) helps keep bones strong and decreases the risk of osteoporosis.
- Exercise promotes better neuromuscular function which helps to maintain balance and skilled movement.
- Exercise helps maintain body shape and size which can affect how we feel at any age.
Tips for Getting Active3
- If you are over 40 years old, suffer from a chronic illness or osteoporosis or have been inactive for a long period of time it is important to speak to your health care professional prior to beginning a fitness program.
- It is important to choose activities that you find interesting.
- Find 2 or 3 different types of exercise that you enjoy which will allow you to rotate your exercise activity to avoid boredom
- Exercise with friends.
- Choose safe and comfortable forms of exercising such as walking, swimming and cycling.
- Weight training can increase your muscle tone and muscle mass in a relatively short amount of time
- Start off slowly and aim for small improvements.
- Check your pulse frequently to make sure you are not over doing it.
- Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise
For More Information About Exercising:
- Tips for Exercising from American Heart Association
- Tips for Excercising from American Institute for Cancer Research
There are three basic nutrients that make up the food we eat everyday. They are Protein, Carbohydrates and Fat. Also essential to proper nutrition is Water and Fiber. The functions of these nutrients and the foods in which they are found is important in understanding how to eat more healthy.
- Body's main structural nutrient
- Makes all body muscle and tissue
- Used by the immune system
- Found in: eggs, meats, fish, beans, dairy products and soy
- Preferred energy source of the body
- Supplies fast energy to the muscles for activity
- Found in: grains, pastas, cereals, breads, vegetables, fruits and anything with sugar
- Energy storage nutrient
- A source of energy for low-intensity activity
- Found in: all oils, butter, margarine, meats and junk food.
- Essential to all bodily functions and processes
- Essential to maintain life
- Important to drink water throughout the day
- Basic rule of thumb: 8 (64 oz) glasses of water per day
- Helps food move through the digestive system
- Helps to maintain regular bowel function
- Helps to create feeling of fullness at meals
How to Use Nutritional Basics4
- Divide the meal into thirds; two thirds of the meal should come from carbohydrates and one third should come from protein.
- Eat foods that are high in complex carbohydrates such as grains, pasta and rice
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (5 servings per day)
- Dairy is important of bone health. Eat low-fat dairy products such as cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt and milk.
- Avoid simple carbohydrates that contain processed sugars.
- Avoid processes foods .
- Attempt to stay away from junk food, especially soda as it has a high sugar content.
- Limit the amount of refined foods that have fat, sugar or salt in them.
- The largest meal of the day should be breakfast and the smallest meal should be dinner; eating a large amount at night before sleeping does not allow for these calories to be burned.
- Try to eat small, frequent meals throughout the day.
Tips for Healthy Eating
There are more health advantages when food can be prepared with fresh ingredients. Convenience foods are expensive and some are high in fat and salt. Tips for storing healthy foods and eating out are located below.Tips for Storing & Preparing Healthy Foods5
The PantryTips for Eating Out6
Freezer and Fridge
- Buy extra of long lasting vegetables like potatoes, carrots and onions, which can form the basis of soups or casseroles.
- Stock plenty of dried pasta.
- Keep a selection of other carbohydrates like rice, Asian type dry noodles, lentils and couscous.
- Use canned tomatoes, tomato paste, corn and other vegetables (available in low or no salt varieties).
- Stock a range of canned meats, like tuna, salmon, ham, crab meat, sardines, beef and chicken.
- Keep canned legumes (kidney, three bean mix, chick peas).
- Stock canned and packet soups.
- Have a variety of oils and vinegars (olive oil, sesame oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar) available as you can make a wide range of salad dressings or marinades with these ingredients.
- Stock dried herbs (basil, coriander, thyme, oregano and mixed herbs).
- Stock useful condiments including: tomato sauce, mustard, mayonnaise, relish, stock cubes, ready-made stock, soy sauce and chili sauce.
- Store a variety of nuts as these are a great meat alternatives, especially in pasta or rice dishes.
Time Saving Suggestions
- Buy frozen vegetables; these products retain a high proportion of their nutrients.
- Fresh crushed garlic and ginger are available in jars to keep in the refrigerator and fresh herbs in tubes are available to store in your freezer.
- Citrus fruits like oranges have a long life when refrigerated.
- Fresh lemon and lime juice can be bought in the bottle and stored in the fridge.
- Grated cheese can be sealed and stored in the freezer to increase its shelf life.
- When buying fresh meat, choose de-boned varieties. Divide the quantities into meal sized portions and freeze separately.
- Buy red meat and chicken already sliced or diced or marinated.
- Buy bread in bulk and keep it in the freezer until needed.
- 'Bake at home' rolls can be stored in the fridge or freezer until ready to use.
- Make extra portions: when making pasta sauce, casserole or soup make double the quantity you need. Freeze the remainder in meal-sized portions; these are ready-made meals for later in the week or month. The meals may also be given to the care recipient.
- Prepare easy meals like one-pot meals such as soups, risottos, stews, curries and casseroles, these saves time on clean up.
- Use a microwave as it's easier and faster to microwave foods than to cook them in the oven or on the stovetop.
- Don't throw out leftovers when stored appropriately (refrigerated or frozen) they are a quick meal for the next day.
- Try to eat the same portion size that is eaten at home. If the serving size is larger, share with someone or get what is left of the meal to go.
- Eat slowly.
- Ask for fish or meat broiled with no extra butter.
- Order a baked potato plain, then top it with a teaspoon of margarine or low calories sour cream and/or vegetables from the salad bar or ask for the toppings on the side so that you can control the amount that is added to the potato.
- Ask for sauces, gravy and salad dressings on the side.
- Order foods that are not breaded or fried because they add fat or if the dish comes breaded peel off the outer coating.
- Order a fruit cup for an appetizer or dessert.
- Instead of a dinner entrée, combine a salad with a low-fat appetizer.
- Ask for substitutions. Instead of french fries, request a double order of vegetables.
- If you cannot substitute ask that the high fat food be left off of the plate.
- Vinegar, a dash of oil or a squeeze of lemon can be used instead of high fat dressings.
- Limit alcohol which adds calories and has no nutritional value.
For More Information About Nutrition
- Basic Nutrition from Harvard School of Public Health
- Basic Nutrition from American Dietetic Association
- Scientific Nutrition Information from American Society for Nutrition
- Food Fact Sheets for Everyone from Better Health Channel
Cholesterol and calcium are also important to a healthy lifestyle. Attention to cholesterol levels can increase health and potentially minimize the risk of heart disease and stroke.Cholesterol Explained7
- Cholesterol is a type of fat that is part of all animal cells. It is essential for hormone and bile production, and helps the body to utilize vitamin D.
- The body is good at making its own cholesterol so it is not necessary to consume cholesterol as part of a healthy diet.
- Cholesterol is produced by the liver and is also made by most cells in the body. It is carried around in the blood by carriers called lipoproteins.
- The Two Types of Cholesterol8
- Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (LDL): Commonly known as the bad cholesterol. It can contribute to the formation of plaque build up in the arteries known as atherosclerosis.
- High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (HDL): Known as the good cholesterol as it a type of fat in the blood that helps remove cholesterol from the blood stream preventing the fatty build up and formation of plaque.
Effects of High Cholesterol Levels9
The liver is the main processing center for cholesterol. When we eat animal fats, the liver returns the cholesterol it cannot use back into our bloodstream. When there is too much cholesterol circulating in our bloodstream it can build up into fatty deposits. These deposits cause the arteries to narrow and can eventually block the arteries leading to heart disease and stroke.Foods that Contain Cholesterol
- Fatty meats.
- Full fat dairy products.
- Processed meats like salami and sausages.
- Snack foods like chips.
- Take out foods, especially those that are deep fried.
- Cakes and pastries.
- Limit the amount of cholesterol-rich foods you eat.
- Increase the amount and variety of fresh fruit, vegetables and wholegrain food eaten each day.
- Choose low or reduced fat milk, yogurt and other dairy products or drink "calcium added" soy .
- Choose lean meats (those that have the fat trimmed).
- Limit fatty meats and choose leaner sandwich meats like turkey breast or cooked lean chicken.
- Eat fish (canned or fresh) twice a week.
- Replace butter and dairy blends with polyunsaturated margarines.
- Include foods in your diet that are rich in fiber and healthy fats, such as nuts, legumes and seeds.
- Limit cheese and ice cream to twice a week.
- Reduce your alcohol intake to one or two drinks per day and avoid binge drinking.
- Do not smoke; smoking increases the ability of LDL cholesterol to get into your cells and cause damage.
- Exercise regularly; exercise increases the HDL levels and reduces the LDL levels in the body.
- Beware of excess body fat; being overweight may contribute to elevated blood LDL levels.
- Control your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes. High blood sugar is linked to an increased risk of atherosclerosis.
For More Information About Cholesterol
- Cholesterol Information from American Heart Association
- Cholesterol Information from Mayo Clinic
- Cholesterol Information from CDC
Calcium is essential for many body functions and is a mineral that is found in many foods. Adequate calcium intake is important as the human body is unable to produce calcium. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calcium is 1000-1200 mg per day for adult men and women10. Many adults do not get enough calcium in their diets. With the advent of calcium-fortified foods and calcium supplements, it is possible to get the calcium you need.
- Calcium Fortified Foods: includes orange juice, bread and breakfast cereals. Many other food types are now becoming calcium fortified and most products will advertise this supplementation.
- Calcium Supplements:
- Calcium exist only in combination form
- Common calcium combinations include:
- Calcium carbonate
- Calcium phosphate
- Calcium citrate
- All calcium combinations contain elemental calcium
- Be sure that the amount of elemental calcium is higher than any other compounds.
- Elemental calcium levels can be found on the label of calcium supplements.
- Other considerations for choosing a calcium supplement
- Look for labels marked "purified" or with a USP symbol.
- Avoid calcium from unrefined oyster shell, bone meal or dolomite without the USP symbol as they may contain high levels of lead and other metals.
- Most brand names will absorb well
- Chewable and liquid forms are easiest to digest as they are broken down prior to entering the stomach
- A simple test may be done to test absorbability. Place the calcium tablet in a small amount of warm water for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the tablet has not dissolved by the end of the 30 minutes it most likely will not absorb well in the stomach.
For More Information About Calcium:
- Calcium & Vitamin D Recommendations from National Osteoporosis Foundation
- General Calcium Information from Office of Dietary Supplements
- Calcium Supplements from Mayo Clinic
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4. BetterU, Inc.(2007). Basic Nutrition. Retreived May 17, 2007 from www.fitstep.com/Library/Begin/nutrition.html
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6. American Diabetes Association. (n.d.). Your Guide to Eating Out. Retrieved May 17, 2007 from www.diabetes.org/nutrition-and-recipes/nutrition/eatingoutguide.jsp
7. Better Health Channel. (May 2006). Fact Sheet: Cholesterol Explained. Retrieved May 17, 2007 from www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/cholesterol
8. Lucile Packard Children's Hopital at Stanford. (2007). Cardiovascular Disorders. Cholesterol, LDL, HDL and Triglycerides. Retrieved May 17, 2007 from www.lpch.org/DiseaseHealthInfo/HealthLibrary/cardiac/dht.html
9. Better Health Channel. (May, 2007). Fact Sheet: Cholesterol - Healthy Eating Tips. Retrieved May 17, 2007 from www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/cholesterol
10. National Osteoporosis Foundation (1999). Prevention: Calcium Supplements. Retrieved May 17, 2007 from www.nof.org/calcium_supplements.htm