Stan Cohen – Senior Wellness

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

Posted on: January 22, 2011

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. It 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 this.  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.

Who wants to add to this post? I am curious to see what other caregivers have to say on this topic.

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

You offer excellent advice and warning to those wanting to take on the task of caring for the elderly. Those who do this also need to consider the mental and physical stimulation required for proper caregiving. Reading to the elderly, keeping them up on current events, ambulating them, so they can live to their fullest potential. It is so much more or should be : ) Blessings to you.
I don’t have any elders to care for but I have worked in the field.

Thank you Aligaeta. I have been through this a couple of times now. Once with my elderly MIL and currently with a friend, who although not elderly requires a ton of non-physical assistance. At times the mental burnout feels much worse than the physical.

[…] stumbled upon an article the other day on the Maturity Matters blog that raised a very poignant question: Are you physically able to be your parents’ caregiver? […]

[…] stumbled upon an article today on the Maturity Matters blog that raised a very poignant question: Are you physically able to be your parents’ caregiver? […]

These are all good suggestions on physical fitness and in addition to these tips, families need to “have the talk” before parents or spouse gets too frail and unable to think clearly about how they want to be cared for and how to best prepare for it.

It’s never a good idea to wait till after an emergency! Here’s good information on how to plan Solving the Caregiver Dilemma

Excellent article! I love the suggestion to exercise, do yoga and to get a massage as a way of healing your body after hard work! Great ideas!

It is also possible to hire outside help to give you a break. Use a reputable agency and make sure to get referrals.

You could hire someone just 1 day a week- that will fill in and give you the much needed rest- and time to live your own life!

Megan, thanks for your feedback. Most people who plan on being caregivers to their parent(s) have no idea what they are getting into. Respite care is a great alternative to hiring in full time assistance until that time is truly needed.,

It’s difficult to step back and assess your own situation, because you want to be able to take care of their every need. But the truth is that you’ll exhaust yourself by taking on too much. That is a great suggestion to hire someone to help one or two days a week, even just to get some rest and have a day to get errands done it would be worth it!

Thanks for your feedback Amy. One of the biggest issues for caregivers is allowing themselves to ask for help or take time for themselves.

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