Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Through My Caregiver Eyes - Are you paying attention?

It sometimes amazes me how much of life goes by unnoticed.

Oh ... I am not talking about the big stuff - big stuff is generally seen and sometimes promptly dismissed or forgotten.  But big stuff hits your personal radar - usually.

No, I am talking about the small, the inconsequential, the minor details that sometimes barely touch our consciousness.  The kind of little red flags that seem to grow slowly over the years, becoming common place and accepted ... and limiting.  

Here is an worrisome example in my mom's life and mine ...

Watching mom over the last 7 years, I realized the simple act of getting out of bed was getting not so simple for her.  In the final months at my home we had to install bed bars - not to protect her from falling - but to give her a hand hold for pulling herself up with her arms to get out of bed.  Now in assisted living, she has a bed strap that she grabs to help with rising or adjusting herself in bed.

Her torso muscles - those "core" muscles we hear so much about - aren't used for the function of rising out of bed anymore.  She uses her arms to do the work.  And last week, as I was sitting beside her - she in her recliner and reclined - she tried to get up but collapsed back.  She couldn't sit up.  She wanted me to lift her forward.  I reminded her she could adjust the recliner electronically with the touch of a button to help her sit up.  And she did.

None of this is news.  For her this is "normal" now.  Accepted. It didn't happen over night, however.  At some point in the past she must have noticed more of a struggle to do the simple action of rising from bed.  Or maybe not.  Maybe she wasn't paying attention.

But here is the "bone shivering" part of the story for me.

One morning about a month ago I was laying in bed and I started to sit up.  I promptly rolled back down. The first effort was a "fail."  On my second try, I was successful.  It took a bit of an effort and I didn't seem to remember that effort in the past.  

But as I sat on the side of the bed I thought, "Not good.  Not good at all."  Visions of my mother floated through my head.

I vainly tried to explain away the episode to myself as I looked in the bathroom mirror and brushed my teeth that morning.  Years ago I was instructed by a physical therapist to always roll on my side and push my torso up with my arms when getting out of bed.  And I dutifully have done that for about 10 years to help with back pain.

But what has that small action resulted in today?  What will getting out of bed look like in 10 or 15 years?  Will there be a strap hanging off the bed post to help pull me up?

Since that morning I added some core exercises to my routine.  At first those exercises just K*I*L*L*E*D me!!  Many unrelated muscles from my neck down to my knees tried to help with those core exercises to spare my abs from working.  Those lazy suckers just didn't want to work at all!  But I am nothing if not stubborn!

Recently the exercises seem easier to do.  There is an improvement in some things that abs are supposed to help with ... functions that were slipping and I hadn't noticed yet.   And now I can get out of bed without the use of my arms (unless the back muscles are cranky.)

I am not going for a flat belly or a "rack" ...  the usual goal of most doing core exercises.  I just want to get out of bed without help when I am 85.

We all share an aging journey.  But each of us moves through these years differently.  I am aiming for a different journey than my mom.  And the only way I can do that is if I am paying attention - to her and to me.


17 comments:

  1. I have never heard of a strap that will help them get out of bed. You should take a picture to share with me. Yep, it is bad enough when we notice those little changes in our loved ones but when we start to see them in ourselves that is entirely another story..

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    1. I'll try to remember to get that picture. I am not sure exactly how she uses it, but when I asked she said it was to help her out of bed.

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  2. Just lately most of me doesn't want to do what it used to do.....most unsettling.

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    1. You know, it is unsettling. But when you have spent 5 years watching someone every single day - struggling to do the stuff you take as normal - and then you start to see some of those same things in your self - well it is down right scary.

      The writing is on the wall - so to speak - unless you choose to "write something else."

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  3. Yes, infirmity can creep up on us, slowly, until it is so serious it is noticed, like for your mom. Prevention is one reason I enjoy exercising.

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    1. I hope to one day get to the point of enjoying this ... :-)

      How long does that take? LOL

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  4. A good and important reminder. Lately I've gotten downright cranky with my body about its increasing limitations. A frozen (and painful) left shoulder has resulted in my left arm losing strength because I'm not using it as much; a painful right knee (unknown cause) makes me hobble when I rise from a seated position. I know that at my age I must work harder just to maintain what I have….

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    1. My mantra now for several years ... I have to work to be normal!

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  5. Excellent post. Please let me know what exercises you are doing. I am adding "ME TOO" to the mix!

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    1. Lynne, I sent you an email with the short list of abs exercises I do. The full list includes neck and knee stuff and some strength training. But the list is fluid. What I am trying to do is just get some forward momentum going, get some of the basics down so if I decide to get into something organized, I won't be a total embarrassment to myself - and I won't hurt myself.

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  6. I go to Pilates classes where we work a lot on our core muscles. Yet the teacher still insists that we roll on our sides and push up with our arms to get up. She wants our arm muscles to stay strong as well. I just occasionally roll up using my core muscles to check that they are still working. Any exercise is good. Some of the people in my class are very elderly and swear that the exercises keep them mobile.

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    1. Yes, I am thinking about Pilates. I have access to that kind of class through the senior center. At first I attended a strength training class. It was OK, but I think I am looking for something else. Come March I might try out the Pilates.

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    2. With regards to pushing one out of bed ... you are correct. I still have to make sure I don't injure my back. I think doing a "test" of your ab muscles in the morning - on occasion makes sense.

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  7. Your post is kind of a wake up call for me. I have not been doing any exercising for years and I know that I must start soon no matter how busy I think I am. No more excuses. Thanks!

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  8. That is the reason I walk and do my exercises faithfully. I may be getting older but I'm going to stay as fit as I can for as long as I can. : )
    I think of that couple I used to see walking on the path in Ellicott City, Petey and John. They were 90 and still were out there walking 2 miles.

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  9. Sorry your mother is infirm. Good luck to you. Glad you can get out of bed alright.

    Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

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  10. For a while I was doing some pilates - I really notice the difference between then and now - NEED to get back to it! Now where did I put that DVD?

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