Monday, August 17, 2009

Care: Maintenance vs. Enhancement

I've been thinking about this post and what I'd say here off and on all week. In fact, that's why I haven't posted since the 10th, because I'm trying to figure out what to say on this particular subject.

At first, I was going to write about the need for the caregiver to care for herself. But, if you've ever prowled around any web sites about caregiving or read any books about it, they all touch on this subject and I don't have anything new to say about it. In fact, I recently read a book on caregiving, A Family Caregiver Speaks Up, and Suzanne Mintz, the author, had an unbelievably dead-on comment about why caregivers need to take care of themselves that pretty much says it all from my perspective:

Your own good health must be preserved if you are going to go the distance as a family caregiver. Your own good health is the best present you can give your loved one, and yourself.

Unfortunately, I'm not so hot at taking care of myself. I'm 53, deeply entrenched in middle age, and I've got some of my own health issues to deal with. But, I try to ignore them as best I can. Honestly, though, this isn't because I'm a caregiver to Skip and don't have time for myself. I've never been much for taking care of myself, as in eating healfully, getting plenty of exercise and the like.

This brings us to the title of this post: maintenance vs. enhancement. Right now, I'm maintaining my own self and maintaining Skip's physical self. I take care of her medications, help with all the tasks of daily living (you know the drill), prepare meals, and so on. I do all these for myself as well. But, neither of us is looking at improving or enhancing our physical beings.

This is where we need to take action. We need to move from just maintenance into enhancement. Unfortunately, change is hard. And Skip is not an embracer of change. She says with great frequency, "I hate change," and means it. Change has not been her friend, after all, since it usually means some other MS loss. She won't resist change, though, if I push for it.

What would I like to change in order to enhance our lives? I'd say the two key items are: healthy eating and exercise.

All my life I've been fat (this is a descriptive word, not an epithet, in my dictionary). As a kid, my parents tried to get me to lose weight, but always without success. When I was in high school, they stopped trying (at the request of a counselor I had at the time). In college, I began reading about the fat liberation movement (this was in the mid-70s, when there were many movements afoot), and began to look at size discrimination as an issue of society rather than an issue of my size. I didn't believe I needed to change, society needed to learn to accept me.

Well, this was all well and good until I started to get older and realized that I was using fat acceptance as license for me to ignore the need for healthy living. Something triggered inside me, though I'm not sure what. The pain of staying the same suddenly got worse than the pain of making changes. With a friend, I joined Weight Watchers, completely changed my eating habits, began exercising and, over the course of 2 years, dropped 100 pounds. Unfortunately, I've gained 2/3rds back.

So, how to trigger change? How to shake myself out of my settled-in ways and embrace new habits? This is my current struggle, and, as yet, I don't have any answers.


Diane J Standiford said...

I can't belive I chose your blog as my first to comment on today; my next post is about my battle with weight loss. Kizmet.(?) Anyway, kudos to you for enlarging your and Skip's possiblities. A healthy lifestyle is so imporant to surviving MS AND caregiving. (I am a tofer,(caregiver and getter), and just like a marriage, if both partners don't continue to make themselves better in some way, eventually there is little new to give back. For more, I guess my next post will cover it. Good Luck! You will feel so much better about YOU and about Skip!

awb said...

Weight is one of those things that smallish people don't understand. Just cut back, you'll be fine. It's hard! I always have folks tell me I'm lucky I'm tall, I can carry more weight. Just what in the hell that means I've never figured out! When you find the secret, please share it with us.


Rain said...

Hi Cranky! Gosh, I know how you feel about maintaining rather than enhancing. I got trapped in the maintenance cycle too, it was just easier. As I age, I feel the effects of simple maintenance too. I hit an alltime great state of health last fall, but setbacks and troubles caused me to fall really sucks! I do think that everyone is different, and even though we know the dangers of obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, we have to be ready to make that change. I think that you're on the right track by openly discussing it and realizing that change is needed for both you and Skip! My plan will re-start in about a month or so when my life is less distracting! I'd love to hear your ideas!

Cranky said...

Diane - I look forward to your thoughts on this. I definitely agree the two parties in a couple have to embrace the change together for it to have the best chance of success.

Andy - it is funny what you say about tall people being able to "carry more weight." But, let me tell you, at my weight, I'm glad I'm 5' 11" and not 5' even! Teenaged girls and young women also get, "but you have such a pretty face!" That was the most offensive comment to me.

Rain - it's so true that you have to be ready for the change. I'll be sure to share my ideas, when I get some!

kmilyun said...

I confess to having no personal experience with weight loss other than I am always loosing to much.

KRP always has had issues with her weight (to many pounds).

We both are paying more attention to what we eat now or, in my case that I do eat. I worry a lot about her stress levels and health more so now than ever.

now to muddle my way through the word verification ok I am on try three . ...

Herrad said...

Hi Cranky,

Good luck with changing your life.
Came by to say hello and wish you well.
Hope you are having a good day.

Cranky said...

Jan - sounds like you have the affliction of not being that interested in eating. Hmmmmm, sounds like not such a bad affliction!

Herrad - thanks for stopping by. Yes, we are having a good day. Skip is outside relaxing on the patio and I'm going to head out and join her shortly.

Herrad said...

Hi again Cranky,
Just came bvy to say that I am sure you will be able to shake yourself out of your settled ways and adopt new habits.
You already have made a start in changing your life.
Take it easy step by step you will get there because you want to.

Cranky said...

Herrad - thanks so much for the encouragement! Very much appreciated.

Patrick @ Caregivingly Yours said...

Hey Cranky!
This may seem off the wall, but it was middle age 'male vanity' that prompted me to take a step toward enhancement.:)Caregiving puts on the pounds for a lot of reasons. Luckily I found it easy to follow the South Beach Diet and loose 50 lbs in 5 months. More importantly to embrace the healthier eating lifestyle and keep it off. I started adding a 2 mile power walk most nights of the week and simply started feeling better than I ever had.
EVERY one seems to have a book or guide to hype about caregiver's taking care of themselves, but how many are really active caregivers when they write their help guides?? Face it we all do what we can do. Bottom line, WE are not what it is about.

Caregivingly Yours, Patrick

harkoo said...

Linda at Braincheese is on a new diet--you should check out her ideas..She has found a new weight problem here but have no exercise at all--that is just as bad I hear...maybe when it is cooler we can all start a new day!

steve said...

It may seem a bit weird, but I've never found a healthy diet that also made me feel good. It's the exercise side of the equation that has always put a spring in my step. So I eat what I want, and when the pounds start to mount, I mount my bike.

Cranky said...

Patrick - LOL on the "male vanity" as a trigger for weight loss! Well, vanity seems perfectly valid, and is a bit at play for me too.

Harkoo - I read with amazement what Linda is doing food-wise. I couldn't imagine living with that kind of regimentation. I found Weight Watchers very successful for me before, so just rejoined on Saturday. If I don't get the motivation going with WW, I will look around, perhaps at Linda's approach.

Steve - funny that eating healthfully doesn't make you feel good. I'm lucky that it does for me.