Fitness for the Aging Body Charged with Elder Care

My fitness program the last 3-4 months - or reasonable facsimile thereof...

Monday: go to gym, half hour on elliptical, half hour doing weights routine picked up at last stint at physical therapy for excruciating neck pain developed over several years due to chronic migraines.

Tuesday: spend day writing bills for mom, wrangling with health insurance company and/or health care providers over some mix-up regarding payment for service provided six months to a year ago.

Tuesday evening: receive phone call about new urgent health care crisis for mom. Spend rest of evening phone conferencing and texting with siblings.

Wednesday: continue phoning, texting with siblings. Also with assisted living home, doctors. Crisis mostly averted.

Thursday: Knee is hurting. Skip gym.

Friday: Knee hurting worse. Skip gym. Resolve to call doctor.

Sat - Sun: Husband not working! Try to catch up on house maintenance, laundry, see a movie, cook a meal together, grocery shop, visit his parents, go to a museum, etc.

Monday: Must drive to western PA - mom has doctor appointments all week. Six hours in car. Visit with her at assisted living home. On to family home, unload car, collapse.

Tuesday: Up early. No food in house. Pick up mom, remember to request copy of current med list, get meds she will need for day out, help her into car, wrangle transport chair into car trunk, off to doctor's office. At office, wrangle mom in chair into building. Repeat whole ordeal getting back into car and going to restaurant for lunch or dinner. Back to AL home. Visit with mom till mid-evening. Back to family home. Collapse.

Wednesday: Repeat Tuesday.

Thursday: Repeat Tuesday.

Friday: Visit mom briefly before driving home six hours. Collapse.

Sat - Sun: Husband not working! Try to catch up on house maintenance, laundry, see a movie, cook a meal together, grocery shop, visit his parents, go to a museum, etc.

Monday: Knee really fucking hurts. Regular doctor visit coming up.

One week later: Doctor visit. Find out you need PT on knee, which may have torn meniscus. No gym for you.

One month later: After managing another series of minor health crises for mom, plus the usual paperwork issues, finally schedule PT for knee. Spend next two months in PT.

Two months later: Christmas holidays are here. Everywhere you turn, people are foisting baked goods and chocolate on you.

January 2, 2010: Some young whippersnapper is going to write about being fit on her blag!

Im pissed because getting fit really isnt all that hard. If I can do it, anyone can do it. The 'hard' part was sifting through all the bullshit to find out what actually works.


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As someone who's had some success with the fitness and diet thing, I'm going to agree with you on that one. The hard part is doing the same good-for-you-things every day for months/years at a time.

My post would be titled "Fitness for the chronically ill body charged with elder care", but would read very similarly. It's been very difficult for me to take care of myself during the past year, as my parents are both ill. Frankly, I'm putting myself last and thus not managing my illness all that well.

Thanks for writing this. *mopes, yet feels understood*

I love it. My twist is that I'm one of the "sandwich" folk. My (unemployed yet disgustingly fit) husband doesn't understand why, if I want to get more exercise, I don't just do it.
Hang in there. Thanks for the chuckle.


One resolution I will have no trouble at all keeping is not to read smug, self-satisfied, patronizing, and for all their smarts, ignorant bloggers such as the one you linked to.

As someone raised by a smug, athletic father who believed that obstacles to fitness like those you describe are just "excuses," I understand and respect your situation.

(My athletic father, by the way, died in the gym and earlier in life would never accept that he'd had the stroke his doctor assured him he'd had, since someone as fit and "positive-thinking" as himself wasn't the kind of person who had strokes. He would get infuriated if anyone around him said he'd had one. Have I also mentioned that he was extremely right-wing? He was.)

At least these "smug, self-satisfied, patronizing" bloggers are sending the right message - we really do need to increase our physical activity levels as a population.

I think it's a matter of balance. Personal and lifestyle obstacles are much easier to overcome than those related to family or friends, like the situation you describe here. I can imagine that caring for someone to the extent you do doesn't leave a whole lot of time for oneself. But at the same time, I can't help but think that the "smug, athletic" types are right about the excuses. With enough willpower, there's always a solution.

I haven't had to deal with such time-consuming caregiving, but I do have 3 jobs and full time grad school. I learned to wake up at 6am and overhaul my lifestyle to accommodate potentially life-threatening exercise induced anaphylaxis due to food allergies. Smug, self-satisfied, and patronizing? Perhaps. But in many situations the excuses are just gettin' old.

With enough willpower, there's always a solution.

Perhaps, but that solution is not always getting up at 6 and hitting the gym. Lots of folks have physical limitations that truly do preclude "physical activity" in the hitting-the-gym sense, and it is NOT a matter of will.

I get the spirit of what you're saying, but the "smug" athletic types all too often have world views in which everything is a matter of will and health is a moral issue. This is not the right message, as it cuts out a lot of people with disabilities and chronic conditions who have to approach exercise in ways very different from your basic half-marathoner.

If I tried to go running, I'd only injure myself and limit my mobility more (I have an autoimmune rheumatic disease). However, I can do yoga and T'ai chi, and I get tired of hearing about how that is "wimpy", "girly" or doesn't "count". Apparently, mini-trampolines are "for girls", too--as though that's a bad thing. Fortunately my cardiovascular system doesn't give a shit about gender stereotypes.

Yeah, health--not a character issue.

/end rant

Good points, and I agree that the solution doesn't always have to be intense marathon training. "Physical activity" is a pretty broad term. In your case, you're accommodating your activity routines to what works with your condition. Others in your position would just as easily give up on all exercise. This is where willpower comes in.

I was focussing mostly on lifestyle and personal factors that get in the way of physical activity - whatever it may be - instead of physical barriers. I'm certain that 99% of the population has at least some physical activity to do that would be beneficial, but many of these individuals aren't motivated enough to keep up a routine.

I have a dumb question. WHY are you driving 6 hours each way several days in a row to see your mom? Why don't you just stay at her house for a few days instead?

For me, one of the key things dealing with my various aches and pains (and preventing more from starting) has been figuring out how to avoid unnecessary stress (like driving 6 hours each way- are you kidding???) and getting enough sleep.

Sometimes this means being creative, or spending more money than I would otherwise (like say for a hotel for a few nights if I can't sleep in my friends/relatives houses due to allergies, noise, etc.).

It took me several years to make various adjustments to my expectations for myself and food, and adjusting my schedule to make eating well and exercising more of a priority, but I did it gradually with periodic backsliding, and each time I slide a little less. And it has paid off- now I can exercise more regularly again, and that has all kinds of benefits - like helping reduce my daily stress levels and improve my ability to cope with unavoidable stress. I found that for me it was more important to focus on how much better I feel when I do it than to agonize about whether or when or how much to do it.

I feel your pain- hang in there.

Maybe I did not make it clear...for these trips, when I have scheduled a bunch of doctor appointments for mom in a cluster, I generally drive to western PA, say on a Sunday - that's a six hour trip there - and then stay at my mom's house, the family house, all week, for the doctor appointment routine, traveling back and forth from the family house to the assisted living home, which is about 15 minutes away from the family home, to pick up mom for the appointments. At the end of the week of appointments, I travel back to my home with husband and cats in Philadelphia - another six hour drive. There is no way I could do that drive every day. If the drive itself didn't kill me, just logistically speaking, there really isn't enough time in the day to deal with everything I need to do for mom on a doctor appointment day AND spend 12 hours in a car commuting.

A book I've been reading called "Healthy at Every Size" talks about not making exercise something that has to be done at the gym, about regaining the fun in movement. Something as fun as turning on the music and dancing around the house can be excercise. She talks about dancing around the house with your children or while doing the housework (I'd prefer the kids). But we need to start thinking outside the box about movement and our bodies.

By queenaeron (not verified) on 03 Feb 2010 #permalink