Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Keep in Step

When all goes as planned, I take Mom for two short walks a day. At around 10:00 a.m., I coax her out of doors for our first excursion of the day. Two times around our big circle drive and back to the house takes about ten minutes, and leaves Mom breathing hard. Mission accomplished!

When I get home from work around 5:00 p.m. we head out for our second walk. Maybe it's because I'm weary by this time of the day, but I always find it more difficult to stay in step with Mom in the evening. It's important that I time my steps to match hers. She leans on my arm heavily, and if we get out of synch both of us have trouble keeping our balance.

Mom is bent, and looks down as we walk. And so I must guide her, or we begin to list from side to side and once again balance becomes an issue. It's difficult for Mom to keep from attempting to stride out ahead to lead the way; perhaps because in our former life she was my guide rather than vice versa. Or, perhaps she is just anxious to get back to the comfort of her chair!

For whatever reasons, I've noticed that when I match my steps to hers and she accepts my taking the lead to plot our course, our walks go much more smoothly.

Isn't that a nice illustration of the caregiver/patient relationship? The caregiver plots the course but must allow the patient to set the pace. And for her part, the patient must be able to accept guidance.

It is my difficulty with allowing Mom to set the pace for the activities of her day that causes most of the small tensions that occur between us. My requests of her--to wash her hands for lunch, or to come to the door to put on her coat for a walk for example--take her more time to accomplish than my "hurry-up" mindset can tolerate with grace. This illustration of the importance of allowing Mom to set the pace was a nice reminder for me. I need to allow her the dignity of moving at her own rate as she accepts the guidance I offer.

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