In honor of National Caregiver’s Awareness month, Susan Bratton, the Founder of Savor Health a company that provides pre-made, registered dietitian approved meals, has written us an article about her experience as a caregiver and why she started the company. They are a great resource when you just don’t have the energy to get in the kitchen.
Nobody, with the exception of those who choose the field of caregiving as a profession, plans to be a caregiver. But most of us willingly and unconditionally become caregivers when someone we love requires caregiving. In the end, the caregiving experience is life altering and often the impetus behind a major life change. For me, that major life change started in September of 2009 when I received a phone call from my friend Eric. “I have a brain tumor and I don’t want to die,” he said tearfully.
The diagnosis was an inoperable glioblastoma. During the next 7 months his mother, father and brother moved into his apartment in Manhattan to help him as his condition deteriorated. They became full time caregivers. They prepared his meals and, in the end, fed him. They bathed him. They helped him use the bathroom. They paid his bills. They researched potential treatments. They ran interference on communications with friends that were, for Eric, very painful and difficult as he began to come to grips with the terminal nature of his illness. In the end, Eric’s family did everything for him. His friends took him for walks as his eyesight began to fail. We brought meals and told him stories that made him laugh. Due to his treatment, Eric had mouth sores and difficulty swallowing so my goal was to prepare healthy meals that were easy for him to swallow and would not irritate his mouth sores. I focused on the food and nutrition side of caregiving. Unfortunately, Eric lost weight, became malnourished and passed away in April of 2012.
Cancer nutrition became my passion due to my experience with Eric and, following that, my father’s cancer diagnosis which resulted in a bone marrow transplant and the need for a specific diet and hyper vigilant attention to food safety. I left my career on Wall Street and started Meals to Heal after my experience as a caregiver. My experience as a caregiver taught me that cancer patients require healthy, nutritious meals that are customized to meet their specific needs and to help manage their nutritional side effects. Research has shown that cancer patients who receive proper nutrition have better clinical and quality of life outcomes. Often times they are too tired to plan, shop and prepare their own meals and need a meal delivery service. Other times they need information on what to cook or how to cook. Patients, and their families, need access to safe, evidence-based information on treatments, diet and nutrition. Instead, they are overwhelmed by information on the internet that is not based on scientific evidence and, often, based only on hearsay. And, the advice of websites, including those from reputable institutions such as the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute, often contradict each other. Lastly, patients need nutritional counseling yet 80% of all cancer patients never see a registered dietitian. Meals to Heal provides all three services – home delivered meals that are customized to patient’s side effects and eating preferences, evidence-based information and resources and access to oncology trained dietitians for nutritional counseling. All three services are available at savorhealth.com. As part of our mission to ensure that patients get access to proper nutrition, we have also released a free nutrition guide, H.E.A.L. Well, that can be downloaded or printed from our website.
My experience as a caregiver has given me a first hand appreciation of what our customers do so selflessly – putting their own professional and personal life on pause, managing daily activities and responsibilities, navigating the confusing medical system, providing advice on treatment and translation of “medical speak’. And, importantly, providing emotional support to their loved one. Like Eric’s family and my family, they became caregivers overnight without warning and are navigating the healthcare system and the emotional stress of the diagnosis in order to help their loved one live with the best quality of life and medical outcome possible. It is important, during National Family Caregivers month in November, that we remember to thank this selfless army who do so much to help those who are ill.