As trainers, we often notice the changes in people who start consistently attending our classes. Physical changes definitely, we are a gym after all. But we also notice mental shifts as well. People start to smile more, laugh more, act a little more outgoing, and definitely become more confident. They stand taller and walk prouder. It really is the core of why we do what we do. One day I commented to one particular client about these changes in her, and this is the story she told me. I even persuaded her to write about it. Sometimes we never really know what sends people’s fitness goals sideways, or what sets them on track again, but we couldn’t be more happy to be part of the journey back.
Here’s Tina’s story…..
What a Difference a Year Can Make
2018 was quite a year. One I couldn't say goodbye to quickly enough. It was a year of many ups and downs. A challenging journey into my moms advancing dementia, but eventually a year that turned into a path to personal health for me.
A little background.
The year began with my mom living with us. Mom had already been diagnosed with dementia but had been living a fairly normal life with her partner until his passing in December 2017. She was now unable to live alone. With no real plans as to what would happen to her, she moved in with us. As she moved through the advancing stages of her memory loss, we began our stressful journey into finding her a new and safe home. Where do we start? How do we move forward? Mom can't be alone. We need to work. We need help to manage. Thankfully my brother was in a position to move in and pick up the slack while we were at work. 6 people 1200 square feet 1 full bath and 1 half bath. Let the games begin!
At this point the goal was pretty simple - help mom grieve through the loss of her partner. An ever challenging time as she would intermittently forget he had passed. During this time we discovered very quickly that we often overlooked some of her shortcomings that her partner had covered for her when needed. The reality check was tough. Mom was far beyond the beginnings of dementia, she was well in, and some simple day to day tasks were no longer in her abilities. My mom was still confident in her abilities though, which seemed great, but was not realistic. Our first lesson in dementia learning was that arguing with your mom about her needs, and to keep her safe, was futile. Suddenly the child becomes the parent. It turns out that this is way harder than raising our own kids. I hadn't slept so lightly since my children were small. Every movement at night woke me. We tiptoed around so as to not wake mom up early in the morning or late at night. We re-installed a safety gate at the steps so mom wouldn't wander out at night, or have a fall while the house slept. Despite our having only 3 doors upstairs mom would inevitably wander into our room late at night and turn the light on looking for her room. That scares the pants off of you the first few times. It's a sight that stays with you in your dreams, and never really allows you a good night's sleep.
Much to our surprise, in mid February my mom passed the assessment required for assisted living and now had a lovely suite of her own. My brother went home to his family and my husband and I had our 25th wedding anniversary to look forward to, 3 weeks in Mexico. Yippee! Maybe I'd even get back to actually using that gym pass I had been paying monthly for. Anything was possible. My own personal health had taken a backseat for several months at this point.
We landed in Mexico with our good friends ready for some much needed R&R.
First things first! Get a margarita and check your emails. That’s a must when you have two parents who have dementia. Unfortunately, on day one my father-in-law has been hospitalized. Sadly he had declined so rapidly that his partner was no longer able to have him at home. After many messages and emails to make plans, my husband's siblings stepped in to take care of things at home while we continued our vacation. I worried about our parents, and I worried about the judgement of others for not returning. At the end of the day we simply would have returned and it would have changed nothing. As it turns out my father-in-law was in hospital for 5 months before a room came available in long term care.
As for my mom she managed in her suite until April before being moved into a special care unit. Sad but true, she is behind locked doors. Two sets actually. Initially there was some thought she would be an escape risk. I do take some pride in that my mom could fool you for long enough to hold that locked door open for her. That's the survival instinct of my mom who will tell you (sometimes more than once) it's because she’s from Finland!
This story is not meant to be sad, but simply to tell the tale of our journey into dementia and my own personal journey back to health.
I had ventured to keep the promise I had made to myself when I turned 50, to be fit and fabulous! Turns out I had not done a great job. 52 was just around the corner and I hadn't set foot in the gym for the better part of a year. I was overweight, eating too much & drinking too much. I was not dealing with the stress of managing my moms needs. I was working full time and not taking care of my own health. In turn, I was short tempered, low in patience, and at times angry and frustrated. Nothing about this was helping me advocate for my mom. Nothing about this made me proud of who I was. Something had to change.
In May I had stopped going to the gym completely. I hadn't been going regularly for months before that. At the urging of a friend I signed up for a free class at Bodynetix. I gave it a try and haven't looked back! We did a 21 day partner challenge together and I was hooked! When I signed up for the challenge knew that I had to make a commitment to myself if I was going have any success in getting a handle back on my health. One hour a day of fitness for 21 days. I can do that! I started off by walking every morning (something I've continued to do into the new year) and 3-4 classes/week. I feel more confident in what I'm actually capable of accomplishing in the gym. Who knew I could deadlift that much!? Aside from the obvious health benefits, it has helped my confidence and my energy levels. What it allowed me to do was find a better balance in my life. Be a better advocate for my mom. Be a stronger, more supportive partner for my husband as he struggles with his own dads decline. When our son came back for Thanksgiving he noticed I was calmer, happier, and better dealing with the challenges our family faces.
We are a year into mom living in the special care unit. I enjoy the time I spend with my mom more than I had before. Every time I enter my moms room she greets me as though I am her long lost daughter (and I actually do a pretty good impression of this). I bring pure joy to her face. We often go for memory drives. She usually asks where we are lol We go out for lunch and enjoy Sunday dinners at our home. Today she knows me. One day that will end. But I know when I take her home she is safe and she is happy. Must be because she's Finnish!
I feel strong and healthy. I know I'm now on the right path! My patience is still in question sometimes, but nothing a fitcamp won't set straight!