It was a story about a prescription shared over lunch recently. During the course of a lunch with a caregiver, he relayed the “prescription” his spouse had received some ten-plus years ago from a specialist when she was first diagnosed with a chronic condition. …and how that specialist had reinforced that same prescription now more than a decade later, because it was working so well.
When originally prescribed, the spouse had just received a diagnosis for one of those chronic and degenerative conditions no one wants to receive. While offering a medication that would help to mitigate some of the physical manifestations of the condition, the doctor paused and added another prescription. He said, “I also prescribe that you stay active, you stay engaged and you stay loved.”
Let me explain, and then let me share the outcome of this doctor’s prescription. The doctor knew that retaining the same level of activity as the patient had once enjoyed was not a realistic expectation, but to continue any activity was vitally important to her well-being. Staying active means walking when you can no longer jog, or going for a drive when you can no longer bike in the country or embracing new activities or hobbies, learn a language or take up arts or crafts when you may no longer able to do the heavy lifting of what used to keep you active.
Staying engaged means not giving up, for sure. But it means sharing experiences with others. It can be as basic as attending a musical or drama event or being engaged in an organization that is focused on lending a hand to the less fortunate. It means seeking help and accepting help from others within the community or even going on line for support. There is a support group for almost every chronic condition, and sometimes the affirmation of just knowing that someone else actually has experienced what one is now experiencing can be a breath of fresh air.
Staying loved is a special kind of engagement. And to stay loved, one also must extend oneself and love another. It also means that one must engage in self-care, the active effort to feel better. It can also be as simple as taking time to relax, binge on a favorite program, read a book or listen to some particularly special music…especially with someone that one loves.
There are a couple bonuses in this particular doctor’s three-pronged prescription. One, this particular patient has not had a change in the other prescription dose or strength in that entire decade-plus. Their condition is, as they say, well-managed. Two, it is great advice that the caregiver could follow and derive benefit as well. I always tell caregiver’s that there is an “I” in caregiver. There also is an “I” in care receiver!
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.