As the caregiver for a cardiac patient, keeping myself healthy is as important as keeping my husband healthy prior to and during his procedure and recovery.
My husband and I are preparing for his double by-pass cardiac surgery that is scheduled for Monday, February 1, 2016. He was originally scheduled for last Friday, but another patient needed help first, so we were bumped. Just getting to this point has been a journey and an adventure. It took a few years to pinpoint the cause of his chest pain in the first place. He had a cardiac angiogram last October that showed his need for some re-routed plumbing.
It has been a real challenge to watch my husband, who tirelessly takes care of me and our family, become the one who needs to be taken care of. Now, it’s my turn to be the caregiver. I only hope I can give him the kind of care that he so compassionately, lovingly and patiently has given me.
There are some things that I am realizing are very important in the caregiver role:
Caregiver health matters.
As we approach his cardiac surgical date (with much anxiety) we are both very aware of every cough, sniffle, tickle, or any other malady that either of us may come in contact with. For him to catch a cold before his surgery could cause another postponement, which would of course bring more stress and lots of time to build up more anxiety about the whole procedure. That would also give him more time to have a heart attack and subsequently add problems, or worse, I could lose him altogether. We are both taking every precaution that we can take to stay healthy and avoid the cold/flu that is going around our community. It wasn’t until I started looking at my role as a caregiver, rather than only a wife, that it hit me how important protecting my own health mattered. This is not about being selfish or self-centred, but rather putting someone else’s needs above your own.
It is easy to overlook the health of the caregiver because all the focus is on the cardiac patient. However, if I were to contract a cold this week, incubate it for a few days, and then go see him after he has his surgery, then there is a great chance that I could share it with him in his weakened immunity state. He and I like to share with each other, just not viruses at such a critical time.
The danger in sharing that cold with him would be the possibility of pneumonia setting in, tearing his stitches, prolonging his recovery time, disturbing the breast bone that is trying to heal from being cut and pried open, or infection. The hospital staff want him to cough deeply several times a day to help prevent pneumonia during recovery, which is a risk to begin with when someone goes through by-pass cardiac surgery. Add in a virus and you have a recipe for disaster. As a caregiver, I want to minimize the amount of suffering and discomfort he has to endure.
What precautions are we taking?
That’s a good question.
- Let’s start with eating healthy foods on purpose. I know, healthy foods can be boring, right? It’s so much more enjoyable to eat those chips, cakes, cookies, candies, pop, etc. We have been working on eating healthy foods on purpose for quite a while now. When I bake or cook something, our children ask if it’s healthy or not. If it’s healthy, they tend to shy away from it thinking it’s not going to taste good. True, some of my “healthy” experiments have made it to the family “remember when….” memories, but I have come up with some pretty tasty treats that also serve as nutritious and satisfying. I have found that when I choose to eat more nutritious foods, that I have more energy to fill the role of the caregiver. When I choose to eat whatever is around, I don’t have the same vitality, patience, ability, or stamina to take care of myself or my husband.
- I put effort in to drink enough water. It may seem like a simple thing, but it is one of the major things that helps the body detoxify and boost the immune system. Drinking enough water gives the body all the hydration it needs to perform vital functions. Less water = less energy.
- I like to add lemon essential oil and baking soda to my reverse osmosis water. Why? The lemon oil helps to remove toxins from the body. You can also add baking soda (1 tsp/4 Litres) to your water to increase the pH level of your water, which can be important to good health.
- I include exercise. Don’t like to exercise? Don’t think you have time? Yes, being a caregiver can be demanding on your time, but even if you can only squeeze in a few minutes of yoga, pilates, TaeBo, TERRAfit (if you are interested in joining a 90-day TERRAfit challenge, please e-mail me at email@example.com. I am a TERRAfit coach and would love to help you reach your goals!), go for a walk, or go to the gym, DO IT. Sometimes, I struggle with getting my exercise in every day. Exercise helps to boost your ability to deal with stress. You are going to need all the help you can get in that department. Stress can be a contributor to illness.
- I try to go to bed early enough to get the sleep I need. Sleep is a beautiful thing. I am an 8-hour creature. I just need it.
- I take On Guard+ softgels. We love our essential oils. One of the products that we use is On Guard+ softgels. It is a blend of some powerful antibacterial, antiviral, oils that promote and support a healthy immune system. Mark was feeling a cold coming on just yesterday. I had him take On Guard+ softgels throughout the day to help support and boost his immune system. Today, there is no sign of a cold. As his caregiver, I have also been taking On Guard+ softgels because if he is feeling a cold coming on, there is a good chance that I may be carrying the virus too. If I boost my immune system to help fight off the bugs, then we are that much closer to keeping it away. We are continuing to take it daily as a proactive approach.
- We have been limiting sick visitors to our home. Your friends and family may want to show their support by being around and helping out in any way that they can. Seriously, though, if they are sniffling, coughing, feverish and stuffed up, they will help out the most by staying home and getting better themselves. You will appreciate their visit and help more when they come back healthy. The last thing you want is to need a caregiver for the caregiver.
- I try to manage my stress. Some ideas to manage stress are to: Read a book. Take a bath. Go for a walk. Do something you really enjoy doing, even if it’s just for a few minutes to help you decompress and relax. You are going to need every ounce of energy you can muster.
- I like to use essential oils to help manage my mood/stress. Essential oils are aromatic compounds that come from plants that can help with the roller coaster of emotions you’re going through. Being a caregiver does not mean that you will be immune from the many emotions that can come with the heavy demands. Essential oils can help with relaxation so you can get a good night’s rest. They can help ease anxiety, grief, fear, stress, depression, and more. Learn more about Emotional Aromatherapy.
- I like to diffuse essential oils, like On Guard. If you do have a friend or family member who brings an illness to your home, set a diffuser with On Guard. Essential oils are naturally antiviral and antibacterial, some more than others. The On Guard blend is specifically designed to help clean the air of viruses and bacteria (especially when diffused). As the caregiver, you’ll be grateful you took the steps to ward off as many bacteria and viruses as possible. You’ll feel great knowing that you’ve done everything you can to keep your loved one as healthy as possible.
- I wash my hands often. Sometimes, I feel that’s all I’m doing. I like to use On Guard foaming hand wash. Washing your hands breaks the chain and helps to control the spread of viruses/bacteria. I have found that when I use the liquid soap we buy from Costco, my hands become dry and chapped from washing so often. However, when I wash using On Guard foaming hand wash, my hands don’t dry out because it is pH balanced. In fact, they are healthier and softer when I use the On Guard foaming hand wash. I feel so confident using this hand wash. I know that I am killing germs, viruses, bacteria, and everything else I can’t even imagine is there.
- Last, but certainly not least, I have faith in God and Jesus Christ. I live only a couple of blocks away from an LDS temple. I like to go there to ponder and pray. I trust that the Lord is watching over me and my family. I trust that He has a plan. My faith has brought great peace to my mind, heart, and soul. Whatever your faith may be, be sure to take some time to meditate, pray, and feel connected to whatever faith/Deity you may believe. This one item may help you to give the best, most loving service that you can as the primary caregiver of your loved one. Click on the following link to watch a wonderful 3:25 minute video about faith.
Want to know more? e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!