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Are you fit enough (physically) to be your parents caregiver?

February 6, 2013

In the last few years working with the senior population I have run across a huge contingent of people who are their parents caregivers. There is also a tremendous number who see it coming as our boomer population ages and we start taking care of our parents who, by the way, are living longer and expect it of us.

A few of the major issues of caregiving I hear about are burnout, anger, frustration, exhaustion, boredom, of course love and loneliness. Most have aches and pains from the constant on their feet running here and there, lifting, bending, carrying, cleaning and all the other movements associated with the daily grind of assisting an older person. The older and more fragile, the more work involved of course. My own mother in law for example was dead weight, and much heavier for her size then she should have been.

My question is, what do you do to keep yourself in shape for this kind of work. Yes I mean work. Being a caregiver  is physical and much moreso for the older population who are normally the ones doing the caregiving for their parents, or some other loved one.

  • Do you stretch at night and in the morning to loosen up?
  • Do you do any form of exercise to burn off the stress that can wreck havoc with your body?
  • Do you eat right to keep your system functioning properly
  • Do you remember to drink enough fluids so you don’t dehydrate (or do you run on coffee alone to keep going?)

If you currently are a caregiver I would ask you to step back and assess how you approach the role. My wife and I tag-teamed a lot. Luckily I was here and able to help with some of the heavy lifting and spot checks. We shared cooking duties and house chores at both homes. I was able to spell my wife enough time for her to get in some treadmill work to burn off the stress to some degree. Do you have someone you can ask for help? Remember, although you choose to do this, you should not have to take the full brunt if at all possible to get your family to help and allow you some personal time. Any muscle needs recovery from overuse and most of yours will be beyond overuse.

If you see this coming in your life, what are you doing to prepare for it. If you are overweight and tire easily or have fears of the potential downsides I mentions, yet still want to care for mom, the get busy training for it. Walk more, climb some stairs, do more chores and get busy practicing what you say you “want to do for mom”. You very well may want to consult your physician and see if you should take on a roll of this magnitude. (remember, it will be way more than you think) If you are serious about it, then this won’t sound like such a harsh statement. It is in my opinion, a reality.

In any case, I would recommend some Tai Chi, Qigoing or Yoga and an occasional massage to help with your overall well being while undertaking the giving of care.

  1. Sandy permalink

    Unfortunately, this is a difficult role for which to prepare. It is difficult to predict what state the parents will age into. My mother went quickly in a major stroke. My father, however, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at 90. He became more and more fragile, losing control of muscles and balance. I started hurting my back trying to keep him from falling because his balance was so easily drawn off.


  2. Excellent reminder of something a caregiver may overlook, to train themselves physically to deal with physical and mental demands of caregiving.


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