If you’ve never been the caregiver for someone with a chronic illness, you may not realize the challenges that present themselves every day. Hours seem to fly by in minutes as responsibilities loom. Activities like working a regular job, cooking, cleaning, paying the bills, administering medication, and driving your loved one back and forth to health care appointments consume considerable time — not to mention take a physical and mental toll on your well-being.
Over time, physical and psychological wear and tear can lead to caregiver burnout.
The Cleveland Clinic defines caregiver burnout as “a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion.” Stressed caregivers may face fatigue, anxiety, and depression. They may experience sleep disturbances, lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, withdraw from friends and family, get sick often, and even undergo feelings of wanting to hurt themselves or the person for whom they’re caring.
Consider these facts on caregiver burnout from Aging in Place:
- Over 40 million family caregivers provided 37 billion hours of care for loved ones in the past five years. The value of this care is estimated at $470 billion.
- At least 20% of adult children are taking care of an older parent. About 85% of family caregivers in the U.S. do not receive any respite care.
- Nearly half of caregivers have trouble balancing work and caregiving.
- Depression affects 20 to 40% of all caregivers.
Harness your health
Preventing caregiver burnout requires taking care of yourself. This is an absolute necessity, as it provides you with the strength needed to continue caring for someone else. One way to harness your health is through good nutrition. Suppose you’re skipping meals, overeating junk food, and losing or gaining weight due to the stresses of caregiving. In that case, it’s time to end unhealthy self-care and start practicing health-promoting behaviors.
By eating nutritiously and making wise food choices, you can build the strength and stamina needed to provide care. You can also help reduce your risk for developing minor illnesses and more serious chronic conditions, like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and some cancers. A healthy diet also provides essential nutrients to help bolster your immune response to fight off pathogens.
On the flip side, poor nutrition leads to stress and fatigue and, over time, can contribute to the risk of developing certain illnesses and other health problems — including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, eating disorders and depression. Poor nutrition can also result in longer recovery times, increased risk of infections, and greater risk of falls.
Good nutrition is easier than you think
Here are some simple steps you can take to stay healthy, build resilience and forge ahead in your role as a caregiver:
Eat a well-balanced diet
- Choose colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean fish and poultry, low-fat dairy products.
- Limit red meat, sugar, salt, and saturated fats (like butter)
- Control portion size, sugary drinks, and the number of snacks.
- Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day.
Plan your meals and shop for healthy ingredients
Determine specific meals to eat throughout the week, and keep an ongoing shopping list of ingredients you’ll need from the market. It’s particularly helpful to have all items on hand when you’re pressed for time.
Speed up cooking with a programmable pressure cooker such as an Instant Pot
When time is of the essence, your meal could be cooking while you tend to other responsibilities or take a moment to relax and unwind.
Double a recipe and refrigerate or freeze half for another night’s meal
Life is simpler when you have ready-to-eat meals. By doubling a recipe, you'll save time and make cooking next week's dinner a snap.
Get home-delivered meals
Home-delivered meals are a fantastic option for ensuring your body gets the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. The delivery of easy-to-prepare nutritious food can benefit you, your loved one, and your whole family — saving you time and stress.
Mom's Meals® can help
We deliver convenient options that meet a variety of taste preferences. Our culinary team spends countless hours in the kitchen creating meals with flavors people love! We offer over 60+ meal options and condition-specific menus. Whether for yourself or your loved one, we’re able to address your unique nutritional needs. When time is of the essence (and even when it’s not), you can rely on us — we have your health in mind.