April 16, 2008

We're Training at the YMCA

Life has been busy in the past few weeks since my husband and I joined the YMCA. They've got him on a three day a week program of weigh training for his left arm---his right one is totally flaccid with not an ounce of movement. And he's doing a series of standing and sitting from his wheelchair, using a weigh machine to pull himself up. While standing, every third time he tries to stand on his neglect leg (right) for a few seconds. Supposedly this will to help wake up the nerve endings. Already, I can see an improvement in his transfers in and out of his wheelchair. This winter after his aorta aneurysm surgery it was taking as many as fifteen tries for him to stand up enough to transfer and today he did it several times on the first try. Strong transfers can make the difference between staying at home or going to a nursing home so this is a worthy goal, believe me.

Don is walking some at the YMCA, too, and also working on leg exercises---some of which are trying to wake up the muscles that can help him kick his right leg out and up. When Don was in physical therapy last fall, they isolated the muscle groups that aren't working for him so those are the ones we're hoping to fire up now. All the "normal" people coming and going from the Y are encouraging and positive to Don as they pass by. It's a heart-warming and upbeat place to go.

When Don finishes up his routine, I leave him at the Y's coffee shop and then I go do the bike or treadmill for fifteen or twenty minutes. The original plan was for me to do the swim classes on Tuesday and Thursday, which are early in the morning before Don gets out of bed. (I loved those classes when I took them last summer.) But so far, our weekly schedules have been so crazy-busy that it just hasn't worked out that way. That will change soon. At least I hope so because I just signed us both up for a sit-and-fit group class, also at the YMCA. It will probably be a little low key for me but I have to be there with Don because of his language disorders, so I decided I might as well take it too. It's an opportunity for him to interact with other people with physical limitations which I figure will be better for him than the exercise.

On the speech front: A month or so ago I mentioned that Don---for the first time since his stroke 5/21/2000---spontaneously tried to spell a word he couldn't say. This past week he couldn't say 'celery' and I ask him to write it and he was actually able to do it without any help at all, misspelled but still recognizable. His language is still mostly nouns-only with a very few two and three words phrases thrown in and virtually no written abilities, not even the alphabet. The professor who oversees the speech group we're still going once a week recommended working on writing, since Don's brain seems to be ready for it. So we're back to doing homework at the kitchen table again.

There you have it, the reason why my real life is taking time away from my virtual life. ©

April 4, 2008

Where, Oh, Where is the Fun?

(Read with tongue-in-cheek)

Caregiving sucks, you know. Being a housewife sucks. Don’t try to talk me out of it! Don’t try to tell me I’m an angel or a saint---or worse, yet, “A good woman.” Don’t say, “That’s okay, dear, tomorrow your PMS will be better.” Don’t tell me about the silver lining after the storm. And don’t mention the fable about caregivers being given no more than they can handle. I know all that stuff. I was around when they invented that spin. What I don’t know---and maybe you can enlighten me---is when do we get to have some fun? When do we caregivers get to push all the pill bottles aside, forget the daily therapies, hang up the pots and pans, let the dust bunnies mate, and say, “Enough already! I’m going sky diving!” Well, maybe not sky diving. I’m afraid of getting on step-ladders. I’m old and I forget my calcium supplements too often to test the god of broken hips.

Okay, so what DO old people do to have fun? Let’s see. Don does a version of park bench sitting. You know about that, don’t you? Old guys sitting around pretending to play checkers but they're actually doing stuff like watching young people go about their mating rituals, yuppie business men with their brief cases in one hand and cappuccinos in the other, and little kids doing what little kids do best. Bench sitters have a lot of fun. Every so often they get to say to themselves, “Been there, done that.” They might even get to laugh when a yuppie steps in gum or a little kid's ball lands in a pond. Old men get to flirt, too. Like making a pharmacist turn three shades of red by telling her she's cute. My husband has fun doing that. Old men can come off sweet---most times---when they tease the girls and make them blush. But let an old lady try that. Bells would go off. A voice-over would come down from the clouds saying, “Step away from the hunk! You’re scaring him!”

I could knit, sew or quilt for excitement. Whoopee. Been there, done that. I could spit-shine the house. Been there, done that. I could learn to cook---you’ve got to be kidding! This old lady would find that torture. I've avoided it all these years. Why start now? I could buy some new make up and learn how to paint my face. Rudy red lips, black eyebrow pencil lines that over-shoots its mark, round circles of bright rouge plus mascara that runs down the cheeks. I’ve seen that look on other old ladies and I figure it must fun to play with your face that way. But face painting wouldn't be exciting like sky diving or roller derby or dancing under the moon. Or maybe I could pack my husband in the car and drive around until I get lost. Getting lost at my age IS thrill seeking because if you get caught doing that too often they test you for senility.

It's time to get back to my housewife and caregivers duties. The pills don't put up themselves. Laundry baskets aren't self-cleaning and if I don't let the dog out soon he's going to pee on the floor.

Jean Riva ©

Painting by Franz Von Stuck