Monday, February 11, 2013

Taking Care of the Caregiver

Valentine's Day is right around the corner. Be sure to add a little love for yourself in with all the hugs and kisses and teddy bears and candy you will be giving out! A little love in the form of CARING FOR YOURSELF.  It's something that we "younger" mothers don't want to think about, but something that our more experienced Rett moms warn us about.  Our daughters, as they grow, don't get any lighter.

We are constantly worried about keeping weight on our girls, wanting them to be full and healthy and strong - a wonderful goal - but what lingers in the back of all of our minds is "how much longer will I be able to carry her?"

This question is scary on two levels because it affects two people.  Many of us are not as worried with our own discomfort, pain and health as we are our daughters.  It goes without saying our Rett Girls and ALL our children come before us, it's in our nature.  But, what happens as they grow?  This is why we MUST make time for ourselves, recharging, regrouping, reorganizing and keeping our own bodies strong and healthy.

How do we find the time?
With so much on our plates already how do we even begin to find the time to exercise?  It starts with a mind set.  We all find the time to eat each day (although some days we're so busy we could easily miss a meal and not even realize it).  We all find the time to brush our teeth and to shower.  The key to finding time to exercise is to make it a priority.  Something that is not optional, but a daily necessity.

Where do we start?
Most of us are masters of multitasking. How about doing some stretches in the bathroom while you have a child soaking in the tub? Or while you are standing at the stove cooking, you can stand on your tip toes! Or how about instead of walking across a room, do lunges from one end to the other? Even just cranking up the tunes and dancing a little is a great start!

If you have never exercised before a great place to start is with stretches.  Stretching keeps your muscles loose, and loose muscles are less likely to get strained. Some gyms even have stretch classes which are a great way to get strong.

If respite care is an issue and there is no way that you are able to leave the house you can always invest in a few exercise videos - we really like this series because it's broken up into 10-minute increments, there is no equipment needed although you could use small hand weights to make it more challenging, and it's very low impact.  If you have a bit more to invest you can look into a treadmill.  Or you can just lace up your shoes and head outside for a nice brisk walk or jog, you can even take your Rett Girl with you - the fresh air will be therapeutic for both of you.

What muscles should we focus on for lifting?
After you've made the commitment to exercise one of the most important muscle groups you want to focus on is your "core."  Most of us are familiar with core muscles - not because of us - but because our girls work extensively on their core during physical therapy.  Our core muscle group is the same - we need to keep our lower back, obliques (the sides of your waist) and abdominal muscles very strong, this is how we protect our backs when lifting our girls.

What else is important?
Other things to keep in mind when lifting is to lift with your legs and not your back.  We hear this all the time but what exactly does it mean?  Well, first, get your Rett Girl into a good position for lifting.  That means if she is able to sit up on her own get her to sitting, bend down keeping your head and neck aligned with your back. Always bend at your knees (rather than bending at your waist) to grab hold of her and pick her up. The muscles in your quadriceps (thighs) are typically much stronger than the ones in your back and are much less likely to become strained.

For more tips on lifting safely click here

Lets not forget emotional support:
Don't forget to take time for yourself.  When you take a break and recharge you come back fresh - it's a benefit to everyone.  Also check out the Caregiver Survival Network for resources, news, blogs, tips, ideas and connecting with other caregivers who understand the demands we face.

We LOVE our Rett Girls but we also want to see their caregivers as strong and healthy as possible.

If you have a great tip please comment below and share it with us!  We're all in this together!