It has been awhile since I’ve checked in here.
It feels like I’ve been in one of those extreme ultra-marathon races… except this one has lasted for 7 months or so. (And it still has another leg of the race to finish!)
The nutshell version of the story is:
- My Dad had a bad fall on the ice late last winter which stranded him outside at night for a few hours. This set him back physically and mentally for quite some time
- That same week, the owner of his apartment sold the property and gave Dad his ‘moving papers’. That seriously rattled him.
- I didn’t feel comfortable with the accommodations Dad was looking at at that time, so my hubby and I made the decision to move him in with us for a few months until we could find more suitable arrangements
- That was much tougher than I had anticipated… but I’m still glad we did it. Even though it wasn’t all peaches & cream, it was important for us to spend that time together.
- Dad & I were back and forth to his doctors and nursing visits all summer, which is quite a jaunt… being in two different countries ‘n all.
- The pain from cancer in his bones continued to worsen over the summer with us, especially in the last couple weeks of his stay.
- We moved him into a beautiful assisted living residence back in his “home town” in mid-August. I travel back and forth to visit him at least once a week.
- He has since taken a turn for the worse on several levels. The pain was horrible for the first few weeks there, but seems to have calmed down somewhat.
- Suffice it to say, he has not exactly been happy there. He is laid up in his bed the majority of the time, mostly due to pain and limited mobility, but probably due to depression as well. He went from spending day & night surrounded by 4 crazy family members and all our activities and shenanigans… to a much more lonely environment.
- Now we’re dealing with major issues with confusion and the frustration that accompanies it. It could be the increased meds they’ve put him on. It could be cancer in his brain now. Either way, it’s not fun.
- We’ve been told that he won’t be able to stay in the residence any longer and will need to be moved on to long-term care in a nursing home setting, or preferably a hospice setting.
- Yesterday was another rough one – another fall. Much weakness. His head nurse is going to do her best to keep him safe and stable over the weekend in his current setting, and then we’ll re-assess on Monday morning.
And that’s where things stand today. Time to find a new home. Time to try to explain to my Dad that he needs to move AGAIN. Try to come up with the right way to say “We’re going to hospice”.
Since my brother passed many, many years ago, I’m the one-and-only surviving family member to make decisions with Dad… and now, for Dad. That pressure can wear on a person after awhile. Especially trying to do this from a distance now.
All this has been going on while trying to run a business with my husband, run my own business on the side, home school our kids, take care of my own health, and pretend I’m taking care of our household! (I’ll need a demolition crew to help me sort through our household.) Obviously, I let the Dr. Mom Online gig fall to the wayside.
I guess this is where the term “Sandwich Generation” comes from. Makes sense. We’re stuck in the middle of raising our own families, living our own lives… and caring for our parents.
There’s a financial toll to all this as well – assisted living and moving and caring for an extra adult all costs a good chunk of change. That’s just added insult to injury. We’ve been the poster family for Murphy’s Law when it comes to financial crud lately… “if it can go wrong, it has gone wrong!”
BUT, I’m thankful our children are healthy and happy, and we still have each other.
There have been tolls on relationships, too. It’s tough to be there for everyone, all the time. I think we’ll turn out OK… God willing.
Now, to the real point of this post…
I remember reading years ago that those caring for their elderly parents can suffer shortened lifespans by as much as 10 years! It can be chronically stressful, without a doubt.
Chronic stress is a form of toxicity. It also leads to systemic inflammation. Toxicity & inflammation act as a (negative) dynamic duo to set the stage for chronic illness and breakdown.
For those of us caring for family with chronic illness, there’s a blessing and a curse there. The blessing is that you can live a long time with chronic illness. In many cases, you can manage the disease for years.
The curse is, the chronic stress can go on for a long time… causing massive breakdown over the years.
Here’s another kicker: Some studies even show that, if you have an elderly &/or un-well parent, but you’re NOT the caregiver, you can actually suffer the same effects as the family member who IS acting as the primary caregiver.
Sheesh, talk about a lose-lose!
It’s just stressful all around, I suppose. I’ll admit, I thought the stress would taper off when Dad moved into the assisted living residence where he’d be surrounded by people and receive ample care. In reality, it has been quite the opposite.
Those studies about caregivers losing their health have been in the back of my mind for years. As a result, thankfully, I’ve done my best to maintain some of my healthier rituals throughout these last few months.
I know that the mental & emotional stress is an area I stink at when I’m pulled in too many directions, or my relationships are threatened, or my loved ones’ health & safety is concerned. I’m not sure I’ll ever truly master that area of ‘health’! BUT, there ARE things I can be consistent and diligent with in an effort to offset some of the toxic effects of the mental garbage.
My “Big 4 Saving Graces” during times of stress have been, and continue to be:
1) Prayer – I just can’t fathom going through life (and death) without faith. When everything (and everyone) else fails… God doesn’t.
2) Nutrition – It’s far from perfect, but there are certain standards I’m pretty rock-solid about maintaining. I was eating ‘grain-free’ for most of the year, up ’til the last week or so, actually. I just feel better physically & mentally when eating that way – much less “inflamed”. Things are already inflamed enough… I don’t need any more! I’m adamant about including “protein & veggies” multiple times per day. I drink plenty of water. We only cook with healthy fats. And I just really don’t bother with most toxic, factory foods, convenience foods, etc. So, even when my diet is “bad”, it’s not horrific! I might be dead by now if I ate the Standard American Diet!
3) Movement – Exercise is my sanity! I don’t work out for hours on end… partially because science just doesn’t support that, but mostly because I just don’t feel like it, nor do I have the time! I choose shorter, more focused sessions most of the time. But I do MOVE every day. Some days it’s only a walk and some stretching/spinal hygiene exercises, but it’s movement. Most weeks include a couple resistance training sessions, a couple burst-like cardio workouts (sprints, for example), and 2 0r 3 longer duration activities (like bike rides and stand-up paddling). The variety and consistency of these movements is what keeps me going and helps me mentally manage what’s happening around me.
4) Being outside – There’s just something about nature that is calming and reassuring. It’s grounding. It’s where I’m best able to unwind and be present. Like exercise, I get edgy without my outdoor R & R time!
I can tell that my health has taken a hit this time around. God willing, I can get through this acute stress without much fuss, and then focus on rebuilding health.
So that’s the update.
I’m in a strange, stressful leg of this journey. I know more rough spots are up ahead. Like all of us, I’m just trying to stay faithful, do my best with the information & resources I currently have at my disposal, and look for the blessings along the way.
Dr. Colleen Trombley-VanHoogstraat (“Dr Mom Online”) is a popular personality in Natural Health & Wellness. She is a Doctor of Chiropractic with 19 years of hands-on clinical experience in the Wellness Practice she shares with her husband, Dr. Marc VanHoogstraat, in Michigan. She is also the proud (home schooling) mom of two rather fabulous youngsters.
Her unique perspective of the science of Wellness provides predictable solutions and transformational results for those struggling with chronic health issues, as well as those seeking lifelong health. To discover her simple strategies for creating better health through nutrition, movement and mindset, regularly visit http://DrMomOnline.com, http://Facebook.com/DrMomOnline and http://Twitter.com/DrMomOnline.
Also, check out her available books at http://amazon.com/author/drcolleen .
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