Preventive Care for Transplant Caregivers

Caregivers are more likely to skip doctors' appointments or not make appointments at all, leading to less preventative care and increasing the risk for illness.

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Preventive Care

Did you know that many illnesses or diseases can be prevented or avoided by receiving preventative care? It is suggested that women see their OB-GYN annually and after a certain age, begin to have annual mammograms. It is also suggested men see their doctors regularly as well. This is important to catch certain medical issues early so they can be successfully treated. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides checklists for preventative care for men and women; they are good examples of what caregivers may want to be aware of as aging occurs.

Sometimes people avoid going to the doctor’s regularly because they feel if there was something wrong they would have visible symptoms of the issue. Not all health issues show symptoms right away or even at all. For instance, high blood pressure many times has no visible symptoms at all, but without treatment can be very detrimental to one’s health. Because symptoms are not always visible in all health issues, it is important to try to get to the doctor either annually, or as recommended by your physician.

Click here to see preventative care information for men and women by the HHS

Fatigue

Caregivers tend to suffer from fatigue, which over time can result in physical issues. These symptoms can include increased or decreased eating which can lead to weight gain or weight loss, frequent infections, increased usage of drugs or alcohol, in ability to focus, and increased sensitivity to pain. Lack of sleep can also hinder the body’s ability to regulate insulin production and the metabolism of sugar, putting caregivers at an increased risk of developing diabetes.

Some ways to combat fatigue are simply to recognize and be aware you are fatigued. Caregiving can be a very tiring job which sometimes can be a 24-hour job. It is important to realize that long-term fatigue could put you at risk for health problems, not allowing you to care for your loved one or even yourself. It is also important to get adequate, regular and consistent amounts of sleep each night, which can sometimes seem impossible for caregivers. There are options for hired help or respite care to provide some assistance. For instance, some people are able to use respite care a few times a week for a few hours, just to get some extra sleep. You could also ask a friend or family member to take over care one night a week to give you the chance to rest without interruptions. Other ways to avoid fatigue are:

  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and drink plenty of water throughout the day
  • Exercise regularly
  • Try more effective relaxation methods such as deep breathing or yoga
  • Maintain a reasonable work and personal schedule
  • Learn to manage stress better through seminars or classes
  • Take a multivitamin with consultation from your primary doctor
  • Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and drug use

Exercise and Nutrition

Most people understand that good nutrition and adequate exercise can help prevent many diseases such as obesity, heart disease and maybe even cancer. Good nutrition and exercise is one way to stay healthy as a transplant caregiver. It is also a way to encourage the patient to stick to their diet and exercise plan, which is important for a healthy transplant. Many people do not know that good health and nutrition can even lead to a positive mood.

Many studies have shown that with an increase of exercise there has been a decrease in depression. Large populations of depressed individuals are less likely to be physically active because of their depression. The hardest step towards better nutrition and physical activity may be just motivating yourself to do it. Once you develop a routine it may become easier and may be even necessary in your daily life.

Many people argue that exercise and good nutrition improve mood, whether that be through self-esteem, biological or physiological reactions due to exercise. Some even argue that exercise can have almost the same effect as standard treatments of depression, such as therapy or anti-depressants.

Please see Emotional Health for Transplant Caregivers for more information on exercise and how it can affect your mood.

Exercise and good nutrition is good for overall well-being and good health, and may improve mood at the same time; therefore, it is worth incorporating into daily life. Weight gain can be detrimental to many different parts of your life, including your self-esteem and health. If your self-esteem and health decrease due to weight gain, then your ability to be a good caregiver may also decline due to your own medical issues and/or depression.

You can speak to the transplant dietician to get some quick tips on good health and exercise, though because you are not the patient they may not be able to assist you fully. However, the dietician may be able to refer you to another organization or dietician who you could seek support through.

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