This is, hands down, the most physically and mentally draining task I have ever tackled. Taking care of my father, a 188 lb guy who is practically immobile and mostly cognitively gone is difficult for anyone. When you are doing it single-handedly without any additional help, it can seem overwhelming at times. It becomes a test of who has the most stamina – my dad or me.
Some days, it is a toss up.
With rarely a day off, I visit him 7 days a week. My shortest visit is around 90 minutes. Depending on whether he has a doctor appointment of other needs, which can stretch into half a day. We do the same thing day in and day out. I stretch him, both his legs and upper body. Then I get him out of the chair and have him walk, assisted, for about 250 feet. Then we stretch a bit more. Then if the timing works out I bring him to the exercise activity where they throw and kick a beach ball around. Then I get him set up for lunch. If I come later in the day, rinse and repeat above, except I set him up for dinner. Three days a week, one of the in-house exercise physiologists comes and walks with him so I am less pressured to walk him on those days and then we just sit together or carry on a fake conversation. I say “fake” because on my side of the conversation I am doing improv as I have no idea what he is trying to say. On his side of the conversation, he thinks he is having a conversation with me, but he literally makes no sense at all. It’s an out-of-body experience. Truly.hich
Today, he could barely get up out of his chair. It was exhausting. He was exhausted, so I transferred him into the bed for a nap. After a 10-minute cat nap (his specialty), I then had to get him back into the chair. This is no small task for a large man like he is. He weighs about 53 lbs more than I do these days.
So how do I keep up my stamina? I work out 4 times a week. I lift weights and also walk his dog and mine twice a day up and down the nearby hills. I try to keep my mental stamina by focusing on the present ONLY. If I even start to migrate to the future, I stop myself. Right now is all I have. I don’t know what the future will bring and I can only impact the present. So that is what I try to do. That’s all I can do.
If you know anyone who is taking care of a loved one, particularly one with Dementia and/or mobility issues and you are wondering how you can help them? Here’s how. Pick up the phone and ask them what day they would like to take off. Tell them that you have their back and you’d like to spend the day with (fill in the blank). You would be helping both the elderly person and the caregiver more than you realize. Until you have walked in these shoes, you cannot realize the toll it can take on a person.