Staying Healthy in Order to Continue Caregiving

February 25, 2010

Twenty-four years of providing care – the stress, the physical demands – have taken a toll on my body. I am becoming increasingly well acquainted with MRI’s, CAT scans, anti-inflammatories and antacids. I sleep with a heating pad right next to the bed and I’ve invested in a large cold pack that’s kept always ready in the freezer. The receptionist at the physical therapist’s office can recognize my voice now when I call. I know that the key to protecting my health and continuing to be able to provide Lauren’s care is exercise. If I don’t exercise I am going to lose the ability to do what I need to do very soon. My back and shoulders are not holding up to the lifting of a young woman who weighs only twenty pounds less than I do. Plus, I know that I feel better, generally, and my mood is brighter if I work out. The problem is finding the time to do it.

Sure, we have a treadmill in the house, some weights, and some workout videos. That eliminates finding the time to actually go to a gym. And, the treadmill allows for all weather workouts that are essential in the “wait a minute and the weather will change” climate of New Jersey. Mornings are already filled with getting Lauren up and ready for her day. If I workout after that and then get ready for my day, I’m probably looking at starting on my agenda for the day around noon. So, maybe afternoon would work better. Mmmmm, maybe not. It seems that I find it is much easier to make excuses in the afternoon. It seems the afternoon flies by and I end up being too busy, involved, tired, or dealing with whatever crisis arose that day.

What is the answer? I need to do this, not only for myself, but for Lauren. So, instead of planning on how to exercise this week, I decide to only plan one day ahead. One day at a time. How hard can that be? OK, the plan is that in the morning, (while my husband is on the treadmill) I will to do some yoga and lift some weights. Then I’ll get Lauren up and ready for her day. When the DSP comes, I’ll do twenty minutes on the treadmill. Then a shower and get dressed. I can do this.

OK, its 6:45am, the alarm goes off. I quickly brush my teeth and get in my workout gear. I get down on the floor in my first yoga pose and....”ehhhh”. No, no, no, not now! Yes now, Lauren decided to get up early. I get up and check on her. She wants to go to the bathroom. I get her up and take her in. While I’m waiting for her, I get down on the floor and stretch. I will refrain from calling it yoga because there is no harmony, balance or breath control happening here. I’m keeping one eye on Lauren and wondering why she’s up early, is she OK, is she cold, where’s her robe, etc. There is no experiencing Truth, the consciousness of Reality, or union with the Divine as yoga is defined by Swami Chidananda. No, wait, there is definitely reality here. The reality that exercise is not something you can multi-task.

I get Lauren dressed, into her wheelchair, and off to breakfast. She’s finishes eating and we’re actually running a bit early now so there’s a few minutes before the DSP will get here. I grab my hand weights and do a few quick reps in the living room while Lauren is amused by Good Morning America. This is just no way to workout. There is no focus, no relaxation, no “getting into the zone”. This piecemeal approach is not adding up to a decent workout. It seems that even “one day at a time” doesn’t work. I need strength training and aerobic exercise if I’m going to be able to care for Lauren. So, I guess the only approach I can take is “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” And, if that doesn’t work I’ll try “Energy and persistence conquers all things.” And, I may have to resort to “Victory belongs to the most persevering.” And, when all else fails, “If at first you don’t succeed, redefine success.” I hope I don’t run out of inspirational sayings.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Gail,

    If only I had an hour for each time I hear or read the advice about carers looking after themselves . . . I would be fit and bright!

    Just imagine if some of those well meaning friends, or some community funding, could give me an hour of assistance instead of kind words . . . I might even be able to have a medical check up myself!

    I think that developing the art of flexibility when it comes to defining success is one of the best health strategies caregivers can develop.

    Good luck with the exercise!