An iCare Partner’s Perspective: Community-Based Exercise Programs Help Create A New Extended Family

What can you do to improve your quality of life while living with PD?

Well, it depends on who you ask, the PWP, their iCare partner or the researchers. We’ve all heard the recent murmur on the grapevine from Ahlskog’s study: “Does vigorous exercise have a neuroprotective effect in Parkinson’s disease?” Ahlskog says (1) ongoing vigorous exercise and physical fitness should be highly encouraged; (2) PD physical therapy programs should include structured, graduated fitness instruction and guidance for deconditioned patients with PD; and  (3) levodopa and other forms of dopamine replenishment therapy should be utilized to achieve the maximum capability and motivation for patients to maintain fitness.

We get it, vigorous exercise, graduated exercise and medicine to maintain exercise, but I’d like to add what exercising does to help me personally as a woman, spouse, and iCare partner for/with my husband. Larry and I met, got engaged, and married within ten months. We took our vows very seriously…”in sickness or health, till death do us part”…and that was 28 years ago (and still going strong). There has always been something life threw at us to make it interesting even before Larry’s PD diagnosis (two boys, aging parents). I have used exercise to keep in shape, to relieve stress, and stave off depression. Now, I like being Larry’s cheerleader when we’re exercising together to encourage him to think ‘big,’ or straighten his arms (a little nagging goes a long way), or just being next to him and keeping his good, humorous company (yes, I am a romantic).

My Pop had several expressions he used over and over (no matter what the situation) when I was growing up, and these have always echoed in my mind when dealing with adversity. One was “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade”! The second–and my favorite–“Reach for the stars and settle for the moon!” PD entering our lives was a really big lemon, but when we started exercising in programs for PWPs, I found something quite unexpected. I was meeting other iCare partners, sharing and after a time, talking about intimate issues which normally I would never speak of to others, some of which I wasn’t even aware bothered me, but we talked things over. Sometimes there is a solution, sometimes it just helps to get it off my chest and yes, misery loves company, just knowing you aren’t the only one with that lemon. I have made many new friends. Because there is an incurable, progressive disease we have in common (the lemon), I find our groups tend to skip many steps in the friendship continuum and become friends much faster. After talking with different members of all the different exercise classes we attend, I would even say we are like a second family (the lemonade).   

With the New Year coming up, I challenge you to get out there and start a new exercise class. Yah, we already spend many hours exercising every day, but think of our new boxing training program 😉 or any new program you join as a counseling program that will solve all your problems (reach for the stars). At the very least, you will be empowered, encouraged, gain better balance and dexterity, meet new friends, get your dopamine rush, feel less stressed, and you will look marvelous (and settle for the moon!).

Happy Holidays,

Ellie

4 responses on An iCare Partner’s Perspective: Community-Based Exercise Programs Help Create A New Extended Family

  1. Very inspiring. Keep up the good work. It looks like you and Larry have really embraced what has come your way.

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