|On this day our son took my place for the daily walk, and I became the somewhat shaky photographer.|
Each afternoon just before Mom's supper time, we take her for a walk. With my husband, John, on one side and me on the other, Mom links her arms through ours with fierce strength. The sensation is somewhat like wearing a too-tight blood pressure cuff with a bucket of water attached as ballast. My bicep quickly begins to ache and so after one circuit around the driveway John and I switch sides, a procedure with which Mom has little patience.
"Oh my you poor thing," she says.
You can't really blame her. The poor woman is 88 years old, has been dragged from her comfortable chair to suffer unwanted aerobic exercise, and her young, strong daughter is wimping out (I'm neither young nor strong but Mom can't be convinced of this). By the time we return Mom is breathing heavily and her usual good humor has completely evaporated. She mutters resentfully to herself as she pushes her walker back to the recliner. "Can't leave an old woman in peace...have to have everything their own way..."
We put Mom and ourselves through this fifteen minute fiasco each night because we've learned there is a dramatic correlation between both her mood and the quality of her cognitive functioning as a result of those few minutes of daily exercise. When Mom doesn't have her daily walk she is much more likely to suffer "sundowning" (increased confusion and restlessness after dark). The last time we missed Mom's walk she called me at 3:00 a.m. to ask if it was night or day. She had made herself toast and didn't know why there was no coffee in the pot.
It seems strange to me that just those few minutes of exercise make such a dramatic difference for her, but time and again we've noted that she is in a more positive mood and is less restless just as a result of that little daily walk.