I’ve always included physical exercise in my day-to-day routine but found this practice had disappeared when my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I desperately needed to create time for physical activity that would fit into my new daily schedule. In order to make this happen, I put a plan into place for my husband, Ernie, (who was still physically “able,”) and myself!
We started with walks around the neighborhood or local parks. We hit golf balls at a driving range, took every opportunity to dance, and bought a ping-pong table for us to engage in activities at home. We both benefited in ways I never expected and brought a bit of normalcy into our lives again.
On days that Ernie was in daycare, I found personal time for new activities such as yoga, spinning, and hiking. During these exercise opportunities, I found my focus was diverted from his illness to the sporting activity. My stress level was reduced, I began to sleep better, my attitude became more positive and I began to feel healthy again.
I took it several steps further when Ernie had to be placed in a memory care facility. For a complete change in focus, I took an adventure vacation to Utah where I climbed and rappelled red-rock cliffs for the first time. Believe it or not, it helped me to lose my fear of heights and regain confidence in myself.
I figured that if I could face my husband’s disease, I could do most anything …
and I did!
Ernie has now passed on and, through the grief, exhaustion, and responsibilities of dealing with his loss, exercise has continued to be an important part of my life. Fast-walking, weights, spinning, yoga and regular visits to a health club remain a permanent part of my routine. Thanks to keeping physically active and engaged, I find myself less stressed, healthier, energetic and more optimistic.
Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states. – Carol Welch
To those of you who are caregiving and have the ability to be physically active, the best prescription over any medications is to exercise. You don’t have to climb mountains, but find what you can do and do it! Believe me, it’s good for the body, mind and soul.
Margo Ewing Woodacre, MSW