On The Art of Assisting Aging Parents

Mar 09, 2020

Welcome to my very first blog post! What an exciting time to write about the subject of aging and caregiving. 

I want to share my passion for healing and healthy living. One reason is that this information is very needed—we eventually all fall into the category of aging and caregiving.  Also, I have a unique perspective from an over 30-year career as a physical therapist and as a daughter who was a caregiver for aging parents. These two roles of instructor and participant give me a broad viewpoint.

I spent many years working in the healthcare field, gathering information, and honing my skills as a clinician in orthopedic and neurological rehabilitation. My particular interests found their home in the creative use of multidisciplinary group therapy. I became fascinated with how the group-based interactions elevated patients to participate and reach their highest level of function.

My creative and driven personality led me to develop group therapy into a format so that the patients had a sequence to follow for building their physical skills, brain function, and spirit. Although group therapy dwindled for several years highly due to insurance coverage, I never lost my zest for bringing patients together, building a therapeutic experience, and participating in this process.

The need for healthy living and a proactive aging process has been on my mind for years. Although my method for achieving optimal function is for every age, I decided I would first write a book to help caregivers and the aging. Enter the baby boomers, the change in demographics for families, plus the medical research on what is beneficial for the body, brain, and spirit to age well. I knew I had a method to close the gap between the current research and its application to everyday life.

The core of my mission, desire, and passion is to enhance the human experience to a level that creates a life fully lived. As one lives with purpose, directed toward their life vision, many are affected. This information and education I am sharing should have a significant impact on families.

My first major project is a book. I will tell you about the book to give you an idea of what I’m proposing on this forum of health and well-being. 

The Art of Assisting Aging Parents: Discover the Journey to Honor Your Parents, Create Treasured Memories, and Live Life to the Fullest addresses the act of caregiving as an art. I am a fan of art in many shapes, forms, and styles. I love what it does for the soul. I have heard some say that art breaks the soul, which is a concept that never crossed my mind.

What happens when something breaks? It usually opens up and changes shape and function. It may enter into repair or reformation. There is a chance for it to be remodeled, rebuilt, and made new. It is never the same as when it started. 

Reformation is what happens to us as we turn caregiving into art—or art into caregiving. Our acts are not shallow and sterile but have meaning and purpose. We enter into a profound experience as we take care of another. 

As you give care to your loved ones, you will meet challenges, joy, defeat, love, frustration, and wonderment sometimes in the most unusual places and at the most inconvenient times. You can make whatever you want to out of this, but I hope you choose to let it settle in your soul and reflect upon the meaning for you and your loved ones.

If you accept this role, you will be giving away a part of yourself and gaining someone new. There is no other option than to be changed by the art of caregiving.

Let me briefly explain how I came to this realization and how it relates to life, therapy, and caregiving.

Years ago, I discovered there was an art to building experiences into my physical therapy treatments for patients who were involved in multidisciplinary group therapy during their time in rehabilitation. The process was exciting to me and prompted me to write a four-week group therapy format to organize the events we provided for the patients on their road to recovery and finally to home. This type of therapy allowed me to use my creativity to challenge others in ways traditional treatment did not. 

A few of the benefits of group therapy were an increase in self-confidence, motor planning skills, support from peers, becoming teachers and confidants to others, increasing social skills, and carry-over to other tasks. We found out that face-to-face interaction is healthy!

At this time, I also had the opportunity to help my parents and had direct contact with peers outside of work as well as family friends and even strangers who would share their stories of caregiving with me. They talked about the devotion and commitment they had to their parents and also how they were frustrated and overwhelmed. They were in search of answers to become successful in this endeavor.

The timing was right for me, as an empty nester, to devote my energy to a new project as well as find a shift in my career that would take me in a creative direction. That was when I decided to share my information with others in the form of a book and education.

The Art of Assisting Aging Parents highlights a proactive aging process. My premise is that by using healthy lifestyle tools, educational theories, and group interactions, regularly, you set your parents and yourself up to function at the highest level in body, mind, and spirit. 

As you achieve this state of health, you can live your unique vision, or life purpose, in a meaningful way. Isn’t that what makes our hearts sing, motivates us to live in the moment, and fall in love with life—when we can live out our soul’s calling or purpose? Make your art! You are the creator.

To make this process easier, I further developed my four-step method to include the above-stated ingredients so that you are using or practicing them every day. By having a regular diet of exercise, essential nutrition and hydration, breathing, meditation, brain stimulation, group encounters, and more, you place yourself in a position to age—kind of like a rock star.  

Your goal may be to provide this method for others, but none of us are exempt from starting this process because let’s face it; we are all aging. The earlier we get started with this process, the better. It is a well-known fact that we do have control over our bodies, brains, and spirit by how we take care of them daily. We are now finding out through the latest medical research that what is good for the body is also good for the brain.

Achieving a high state of well-being while maintaining commitments to a family, job, social and spiritual life, the community, and now the care of aging parents is not always an easy task. The fact is that it can be extremely challenging and overwhelming.

Are you wondering where you should begin? The best place to start is with education, followed by implementation. Or, in other words, learn it and do it! 

Health tools such as aerobic exercise, beneficial nutrition, mindfulness and meditation, and sleep, which assist our bodies, have a profound effect on our brain health. So much so that this healthy lifestyle has an impact on slowing or reversing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Also, if you spend time in your young and middle adulthood, building secure neural connections, your brain will age slower. This is because you built up a reserve of capacities, which is called cognitive reserve. Note this essential information!

There is so much value in slowing your life down, if only for a few minutes, several times a day. Take time to drink an extra glass of water, live in the moment or be mindful, take the stairs rather than use the elevator, and breathe deeply for 2 minutes. We may not be able to turn our lives around immediately, but taking a few minutes here and there is a good start.

After you learn the techniques, put them to use as much as you can, and note the results you achieve. Breathing well and meditation may seem like optional lifestyle habits, but once you feel the health benefits from them, you will not want to stop. I have witnessed the power of breathing well and taking a few minutes out of your day to be mindful and meditate. It is life-changing. Practicing these, as well as other healthy lifestyle tools over time, provides life-changing results. 

You can bridge the gap between the latest scientific research for healthy living and participation in a successful aging process. I can help you with this adventure so you can enjoy the years ahead as you make a difference in the lives of those you love.

I do have a mission to help individuals, and by doing so, strengthen the family. Thank you for joining me for my very first blog post. I’m so excited to continue to share this life transformation I believe in with you.

Teresa Moerer

 

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