Staying Active & Healthy on the Caregiving Journey
We Boomers and seniors have so many choices on a daily basis: what to eat for breakfast, what movie do I go see, when do I set time aside for the next visit with my grandchildren, who’s joining me for dinner tonight, what is my next tee time, do I really need to schedule that doctor visit, and if you’re still working or starting a new business, how do I improve it…. And the beat goes on every single day.
Another very important choice we make is whether to make it our responsibility as a caregiver, be it a spouse, friend, or elderly parents. Many of us are faced with that challenge every day and it boils down to a choice. Do I do it or not, do I continue it or not, how much time do I devote to it, do I involve my siblings or not, and eventually, how much do I sacrifice of myself in the process.
This last question is probably the most important pivot point in your decision making. Yeah, it’s one thing to sign up for being a caregiver, it’s another thing entirely to understand the mental and physical commitment it takes to be such a provider.
We’re all seniors at some level, whether we’re just turning 55, whether we’re Boomers, or whether we’re in the senior-senior citizen category. We have our aches and pains, but along the way, we should develop the attitude that our age is simply a number. It is more important to find out what you can still do rather than worry about the number of years you have been around in this life. We all know we cannot do what we did 20 years ago, at least without it taking longer with a great deal more thought. The mind is willing and thinks it can, but the body will usually not cooperate and follow orders.
And you need to be prepared for this eventuality whether you are a caregiver or not. If you are, which is the substance of this article, then you have to be prepared to rise to the occasion and the obligations that go along with it. You have to develop your own purpose and dedicate the time and energy to make it a successful journey, or in other words, what you need to do to be your best self.
With a little effort on our part, we can exercise, get good sleep, stay with a beneficial diet and try to be more active. Actually, in my case, that is why my parents are both in a nursing home—they gave up long ago with any physical exercise and routine activity—so where did they think this was going to get them? So, they gave up, now it’s on me. I’m not sure I like the cards dealt in this hand, but I’m OK being their primary caregiver along with my BoomerGuy who does all the financial and legal work behind the scenes and gives me the support to carry on. And, I will always mention the exceptional staff at their skilled nursing facility. Inasmuch as they are present 24 x 7, which is what’s required to provide them their basic needs, I also find I’m doing a lot of the heavy lifting. I swore to myself and my BoomerGuy, there was no way I would end up like them being totally dependent on others because they or I refused to remain active. So I made my choice—be the best I can be and never quit. I trust that is the choice you make.
Every day, I get up and do things—big things little things, all within the safety of your home and without going to the gym. I have been doing pilates and using exercise bands for years for increased strength and mobility, I either walk or ride my bicycle (only if it’s not too cold—that wind chill can be brutal, Ha) for cardio and fresh air, I lift medium sized weights to keep my arms toned, and I just started practicing the ancient tradition of Tai Chi for its various health benefits. I am an active reader and pursue learning via the great many sources on the internet. I try to stay current with technology so I’m not too challenged. I’m not only doing all this for my own self-esteem and health, but without the routine I would fail as a caregiver. The caregiving demands of my life would suffer greatly if I wasn’t conditioned to sustain the daily, weekly, and monthly rigor of helping to look after my senior-senior parents. The worst part would be the toll it would take on me personally if I didn’t condition myself to be both mentally and physically prepared. If I don’t have my health, then where does that lead.
As mentioned in a previous blog, we chose to retain my parent’s house. It affords me the opportunity to spend nights there on a part-time basis when the caregiving requires me to be at the nursing home for several days straight. The home is located in a wonderful senior community with a magnificent clubhouse filled with activities and available facilities of all kinds and varieties. There are dancers in their 80’s and 90’s. They’re not as nimble as they were in the past, but they are sure proud of what they can do today. There are guys and gals on the golf course swinging away as if they can hit a 300-yard drive. Their handicaps are not the same as 20 years ago, but who cares? A 150-yard drive is a thing of beauty. If you want to be uplifted, watch the Bocce Ball games. There are players using canes and walkers.
My point, we should work at being physically and mentally active for as long as we can. It depends on whether we want to make the effort. I think it’s better to awaken each day and look forward to accomplishing a few tasks and participating in some activity or is it better to awaken each day and feel sorry for yourself because of the deck of cards that’s been handed to you. Come on, that answer is an easy one.
It’s your choice to be your best self. Who do you want to be every day. Actually, there is no choice—get out, stay active, be your best and do it.
Editorial contribution by Joe Formino, Sun Lakes Lifestyles.