Exercises to Help You Work With Paraplegics

May 16, 2016 | 8:00 am | By Pants Up Easy

If you’re a caregiver to a paraplegic, you’re certainly seeing a lot of literature and information about how you can best assist your patient, including articles about exercises that help people who are confined to a wheelchair. So the title of this piece may be a bit puzzling at first. You’re the caregiver, not the patient, right?

Caregivers need care, too.

 It’s true that your main objective is to provide care and support to the patient you’re working with. But let’s be honest. Being a caregiver for a paraplegic is a difficult and exhausting role, and it’s probably not the one you went to school to prepare for. It puts huge demands on your time and your energy, both physically and emotionally. If you’re like many of the caregivers we know, you’re also working at a “real job”, and trying to juggle your schedule around to fit in all of your responsibilities. Chances are that you feel you have little time left over for yourself and your own needs.

 Please don’t forget, however, that it’s crucial to take proper care of yourself. If you’re going to provide the best possible care, you need to be in good shape yourself, in body and mind. So don’t neglect your own health and well-being. This should include a well-balanced, nutritious diet (even on the days when it doesn’t seem that you even have time to eat at all), your own healthcare appointments, and getting a proper amount of sleep and exercise.

Benefits of exercise

 You may have cringed a bit when you read that last word. “When could I possibly find the time to exercise?”. We completely understand the feeling. But keep in mind that exercise, though it takes time, should be energizing, rather than a drain on your energy. The National Institutes of Health point this out, as well as a number of other benefits of exercises, that will help you and make a more effective caregiver:

  • Exercise improves your mood and sense of well-being, and can reduce your stress level and feelings of depression.
  • Exercising can improve your mental clarity and even enhance some aspects of cognitive function.
  • Exercise can help prevent a number of chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
  • Exercise helps maintain and improve your physical fitness and strength (and you know you need these!).

So what should I do?

 OK, we’ve convinced (or reminded you) of the need to stay in shape. But it’s still going to be challenging to work this all into your already overloaded schedule. Here are a few tips that may help:

  • Try home exercise. You don’t have to go to a gym, if it doesn’t fit into your schedule or your budget. There are plenty of DVDs available with exercises you can do on your own. Some light workout equipment, or a few weights, if you can afford them, will be a big help.
  • Take breaks throughout your day. You may not be able to find time for a 30 minute workout. But three separate 10 minute workouts may be easier to fit in, and will still provide a lot of benefit.
  • Do some stretches and maybe some light weight training for your arms and upper torso. You’re doing a lot of lifting to help transfer the patient, and muscle pulls and sprains are not uncommon among caregivers of paraplegics.
  • Meditation and relaxation exercises can help put you in a better frame of mind, and that will also make you more effective at caregiving. Don’t forget that your mind needs exercise and care too!

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