Many people are in caretaker roles right now, and that work can be difficult in ways not always anticipated.
As a culture we’re starting to recognize how emotionally taxing caretaking is, and I’d add that it’s also incredibly physically taxing. Lifting and moving the person you’re caring for, doing the bulk of all housework and errands, and running on diminished sleep all require a lot of your body. Caretakers can be exhausted and find themselves sore a lot of the time.
I spent a short period of time in this position myself, and because I’m always trying to move as well as figure out where movement can fit into everyday life, I played with stacking movement into my caretaking work. For example, when it came to laundry I found benefit in the movement of putting it up and taking it down off a rack or line, and would fold in on the floor so I could stretch my hips at the same time. I did small stretches in the kitchen (Calf Stretch at the sink!) and while loading the washing machine.
I also found that while longer walks were not possible, I could take five-minute walks, multiple times throughout the day, even if they were just a quick jaunt around the outside of the house. If I had coverage to do an errand, I would opt to do it on foot (and I loved gathering flowers or other plant pieces, like pinecones, on the way, to bring in a little fresh bouquet to add a bit of #vitaminnature).
Tending to yourself physically in a way that doesn’t require extra time and money might help address some of your many needs if you who spend a lot of time tending to someone else’s needs. When you stack your movement with your caretaking work, you’ll be able to do your tasks with much less injury, and you’ll be taking better care of yourself as you do your important work.
Note that everything above does not mean that you couldn’t still benefit from a long bout of movement or a long time away from caretaking. Everybody needs a break sometimes! I simply want to offer a reframe of the idea that caretaking can only benefit the one being taken care of. Our family, like many, has had to deal with years of caretaking, and what’s helped us through is to see that often the needs of more than one person can be met in a caretaking scenario. My perspective is that this can even be true physically. And if an hour away from caretaking is not possible for you—or it is, but you’d rather not spend it exercising—you have options.
The Essential Guide to Caretaking interviewed me on some simple moves that can fit into a caretaker’s regular day at home. Click here to read that article for movements and tips on how to do your ordinary tasks a bit differently so that without adding much exercise time, you can balance your muscle use and stretch out your hardworking body.
For more information about form, corrective exercise, and fitting movement into your life, read Dynamic Aging.
I was interviewed on Alzheimer’s Speaks Radio, on this very topic; you can have a listen to that episode here (which stacks well with folding laundry and hip stretching!).
On my podcast, I spent an episode discussing the possible relationship between grief and movement. You can listen to that here.