The Key for Exercising With People You Are Caring For – Plus Other Benefits
By Kathy Woods, Certified Ageless Grace Educator/Trainer
During the 14 months before my wonderful mother passed we went from hiring a caregiver-friend part time to having full-time care and then Hospice. Most of the people caring for her were my brother, myself and friends who wanted to help. I had decided to let others clean her house and do the chores while my “job” was to manage, organize and have fun times being her daughter.
During the first three months she was getting stronger and adjusting to her new life – instead of driving her car, she sold it to one of the caregivers. Instead of visiting her friends, they came to see her. She had always been a giver now she had to find different ways of giving.
Knowing that she loves parties I asked if she wanted to have a Valentine’s Day Party. She thought about it and said, “no”. Weeks later I asked about having a St. Patrick’s Day Party. She thought about it and said, “yes”. So, I picked up pen and paper and said “who shall we invite”? She named a few people and then enthusiastically switched to songs – When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, I’ll take you Home Again, Kathleen (my name song) – and then talked about food. After a while she became weary and said she needed a nap.
The next day, when I returned, she was alert, excited and at the piano practicing her Irish songs. The list of guests was on the table. Didn’t I say she loved parties! We talked about the party and she said she wanted dancing. The conversation went like this:
Me: “You want dancing? Fine, I’ll lead the dancing but you need to play the piano!”
Mom: “Oh, that would be fun – just like old times but I don’t think I can.”
Me: “Then I can’t dance.” (look at each other, smile & laugh) (We both knew we could do it if we put our mind to it.)
Mom: “OK, I’ll practice.”
The St. Patrick’s Day party was a success with lots of fun complete with Music, Dance, Irish Soda bread, and the wearin’ o’ the green plus Mom was feeling better.
Now was the time to call a Physical Therapist to come to her home to work with her as we continued to get her strong. The first appointment was successful – Mom did her bicycle movements and other strengthening moves plus she had a new friend, the Therapist! During the week Mom practiced almost every day and just before the second appointment with the Therapist she asked the caregiver to please put on water for tea and “I’ll have some of those cookies, too.” So, when the Therapist entered Mom said, “I don’t want to exercise today – I want to have tea with you.” Needless to say, the Therapist was kind, sweet AND exercised with my mother while they ate the cookies.
The following weeks the times for practicing the exercises with the caregivers was sporadic sometimes mornings sometimes before bed – but the caregivers all knew what to do with Mom and could help her with the routine whenever Mom was willing to do them. And that’s the key for exercising with people that you are taking care of – know what to do and be available when they’re willing to exercise.
Several years after my Mother had passed I took the Ageless Grace Certification where I learned the 21 Tools for lifelong comfort and ease which are the basics of the Ageless Grace Fitness Program for Body and Brain. Plus I learned how to modify and adapt these movements to fit my fitness level. The program is based on the science of Neuroplasticity and uses music, movement and mindfulness to activate the 5 functions of the Brain:
- Strategic Planning
- Analytical Thinking
- Kinesthetic Learning
Each Tool has a fun name to help identify the type of movements for the Tool; i.e. Spaghetti Spine works the spine; Front Row Orchestra relates to movements involving musical instruments; Juicy Joints uses movements to make the joints juicy; And the movements for Dive-In are swimming strokes; – All of these movements done while sitting in a chair and can be done almost anywhere at any time!
The Program is not only good for personal practice, it’s great for family caregivers to know in order to work with people they’re caring for. Besides the physical benefits the Program also helps the Brain and the Spirit. What do I mean? My Mom and I both would have selected music that she liked and when with the music would have come memories that she would have shared. And memories would have come up when we did a lot of the other Tools – “when they went swimming in the old swimming hole or naked in the lake!” And who she went with to the Prom or who played in the marching band. Both of us would have taken a trip down memory lane and we would have gotten to share more stories and laughs. I wish I would have known Ageless Grace so I could have experienced it with my Mother.