As a caregiver to a challenging elderly family member, you need to have all the energy, stamina and strength you can get. Here is how you can get it all.
You need only three exercises to give you the stamina and strength to combat all the physical and mental stress of caregiving.
I’m a former certified personal trainer who experienced “extreme caregiving” for my mother.
The stress was unbearable, but not once did I drink alcohol, smoke or take painkillers.
Tools for Having Energy, Stamina & Strength when Caregiving
1) Strength for a lot of lifting
2) Ability to maintain alertness and stamina from morning till night, as well as for being on-call overnight for the unexpected.
A caregiver’s stress is enormously compounded when the patient is non-compliant, and the stress of the caregiver spikes even more when a key family member stands in the way of proper treatment – as did happen to me.
Exercise Is a Must for Caregivers
Exercise suppresses stress’s potential effects on the caregiver’s own health.
There are several weightlifting exercises for combating the stress of caregiving and providing strength to carry out the caregiver’s more strenuous tasks.
No matter how stressful being a caregiver ever gets, never turn to drinking or drugs!
I certainly know what caregiver’s stress is like, and the “drug of choice” for stressed caregivers should be the gym!
Deadlifts, the greatest exercise for caregivers. The deadlift is a whole-body exercise. Often, caregiving involves whole-body exertion.
When I squatted to scoop up my mother’s 85-pound dog that had cancer, then straightened, dog securely in arms, quickly walked to the car, bent at the pelvis, and carefully set him onto the seat … these actions simulated a deadlift.
Basic squats. Squats can be done with a barbell or by holding dumbbells with straight arms.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I got into a deep squatting position to lift my mother off the floor after she passed out or came close to passing out.
She was 135 pounds of nearly dead weight because during these episodes, though she’d regain her mental senses, her legs were too weak to contribute much to getting back on her feet.
Doing these gym exercises intensely will not only give the stressed caregiver much added strength, but will bust up a lot of the caregiver’s mental stress.
Other exercises are important for the stressed caregiver such as high intensity interval training. Every caregiver should do HIIT to relieve stress and build stamina.
While my mother had a constipation emergency, I found myself literally running up and down the staircase to bring her things, and while my father was helping her I was literally dashing all over the place to quickly gather things up for a trip to the emergency room. I never got out of breath.
Deep Squats with Dumbbell Curls
Hold heavy weights in a curling position (arms bent at 90 degrees) during an entire set of squats.
Find a weight that enables you to do 12-15 repetitions, but too heavy to do 16. This routine will improve a caregiver’s ability to get a patient off the floor.
When my mother would start passing out due to orthostatic hypotension. I’d position my biceps under her armpits and safely sink her to the floor – on her behind.
Lowering my fainting mother’s buttocks on the floor was necessary because during these moments, she lacked the presence of mind to follow instructions to be guided into a chair…and often, a chair was not nearby anyways.
Exercise is a very potent tool for opposing the detrimental effects of stress on the caregiver’s body and frame of mind.
Exercise, as described in this post, will give the caregiver unbelievable stamina and strength.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.