How Caregiving Has Improved My Health Routine
More on silver linings, this time for me and my health routine.
One of the changes prompted by Mom’s situation has been to my daily health routine. For most of my years, I’ve been blessed with great health. Only a few colds and periodic sinus problems have slowed me down. Furthermore, my parents encouraged me to participate in sports during my early years and into adulthood, so I have gotten used to the idea that physically I could do anything that I wanted.
During the past few years, however, making consciously healthy choices moved lower on my daily schedule. A full-time job, a lot of travel, and graduate school all combined to cramp my schedule (and exercise tended to lose its place in the grind). That crazy schedule contributed to way too many trips through the drive-through lanes of local fast food restaurants and meals eaten on the run.
Fast forward to 2005 when I experienced the combined stress of losing that fast-paced job due to budget cuts, Mom being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and my accepting the caregiver role for her. The stress and strain of dealing with these critical issues provided me with the first feeling of really being old.
I found that I ran out of breath when I walked for relatively short distances or climbed flights of stairs. My shoulder consistently hurt. My sense of balance was off. My high energy level was gone.
Because of these changes, I rapidly came to the conclusion that I needed to re-prioritize my life to schedule time spent on my own health, as well as time spent with Mom. Now I try to devote an hour or so most days to exercising, whether through walking, biking or taking a class in the gym. That small schedule change has given me the boost I needed to feel better in my caregiver role and enabled me to better roll with the punches that Alzheimer’s Disease deals to my mom. All of the physical maladies that I described above have disappeared.
Furthermore, I am now making most of my own meals with an eye on my health, especially since it appears that dementia runs in the maternal side of my family tree. In looking at the research related to Alzheimer’s, I’ve learned that there may be dietary ways to keep this disease at bay. So I’m trying to include more fish, fruits and vegetables, green tea, and other key nutrients into my diet. And by eating better, I again find that I no longer feel the creeping signs of aging that the unhealthy fast food diet had promoted.
Taking care of my health had always seemed like a given, but it wasn’t a true priority since I hadn’t scheduled this time into my life. Mom’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s forced me to reevaluate my own health and allowed me to give myself “permission” to actively pursue better choices both in my diet and exercise routine. Now I feel better not only about the time and energy I can give to Mom, but the quality of my own life.
Published On: December 04, 2006