Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar is the most sacred month of the year for Muslims. During the entire month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world practice fasting every day, from dawn to sunset.
While Ramadan fasting is compulsory, some groups are exempted. These individuals are often those who are may not be in full health, pregnant, breastfeeding, menstruating, and seniors who have excused themselves from fasting.
For most family caregivers, fasting is practiced on top of their caregiving responsibilities on a day-to-day. Delivering care with no sustenance for long periods of time may impact their physical health and compromise their ability to care for their loved ones.
To help overcome fasting fatigue, here are five useful tips to help you out if you are a caregiver for someone you love.
1. Healthy meal choices
Ramadan bazaars are packed with affordable food and drinks which can prove to be irresistible for those breaking their fast. While these foods satisfy your cravings in the short run, the high content of fat and sugar typically leave you feeling lethargic. This can make caregiving a little more challenging and increase the risk of a lapse happening.
You can give yourself a chance to prepare your day with an energy-packed homemade meal when you break fast. Foods that are packed with nutrients, proteins and healthy fats have sufficient energy to sustain you through the day. Common food items such as nuts, dates, dried raisins, bananas and brown rice are good morning suggestions to keep you fueled and sustained.
Nuts like almond, pistachio, walnut and cashews are crowd favourites that are low-calorie healthy picks, said to help reduce risk factors for many chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Dates have an abundant source of fibre, sugar and vitamins such as magnesium and potassium.
Caregiving takes place throughout the day and can be physically demanding. Thus, it is especially important to choose food products where sugars are absorbed slowly to avoid the lag in energy that typically occurs after eating quickly absorbed sugars or refined starches. Time to think of that healthy Ramadan menu for you and your loved one!
2. Plan your meals to save time
As a caregiver, one may not always have a fixed meal time. By planning ahead, meals will be available when it is time to break fast while saving the hassle of cooking an entire meal from scratch. Meal preparations can be done in batches and stored in the refrigerator. These meals are ready for consumption by simply reheating them before Sahur (pre-dawn meal) and Iftar (dinner).
Preparing meals in advance not only saves money and time in the kitchen but also helps you stay organised during the Ramadan month. Your energy can be maximized during this period and with the time you have you can make good choices on the variety of food and healthy recipes to delight and nourish the family. The time saved can also be channeled to managing care for your loved ones.
3. Hydration is key
Heat is a constant in Malaysia’s tropical climate and it heightens the risk of dehydration when fasting. Warmer temperatures in the day typically cause sweating, resulting in fluid loss. When your body loses too much fluid, dizziness, headaches and even fainting episodes can set in. This will mean a potential halt to your ability to care until you recover.
Getting enough water to kickstart or end a day of fasting thus becomes essential for your body to function. Make an effort to drink enough fluids daily before the break of dawn. Although you can quench your thirst with juices, milk and soups, water remains the best choice.
4. Activities for the body and mind
During the fasting month, you have to be mindful of your physical state by ensuring you are optimising your energy levels. Sweat-inducing exercises may not be the most ideal during these times but there are other alternative to keep the mind and body active with light exercises and simply mind activities that can be beneficial for both seniors and caregivers alike.
Some good suggestions would be to get seniors to put together puzzles, do a scrabble battle, or even bring out their inner Picasso with some drawings or paintings. Encourage them to do some modified light exercises with you by moving their legs or arms even if they are sitting down because they cannot stand up for long periods of times.
5. Manage caffeine withdrawals
It is not unusual for many to start the day with a coffee or any form of caffeinated drinks for a perk-me-up. However, for habitual or heavy drinkers of caffeinated beverages, the sudden drop in caffeine present in the body during the Ramadan month might trigger headaches and lethargy. This is on top of the drinks’ diuretic nature which promotes fluid loss.
To minimize these symptoms, caregivers should try to reduce caffeine consumption progressively, at least two weeks prior to Ramadan. This will help the body adapt gradually to the lower level of caffeine during fasting with lesser effects to the body. Alternatives like juices or smoothies can be consumed instead.
We hope these tips will provide caregivers with the energy they need to continue their caregiving responsibilities while their bodies adapt to the changes during fasting and the Ramadan festivities.
We will also like to wish all our Muslim readers, Ramadan Mubarak and Selamat Berpuasa.