Lenten Reflections #13
My father always says, “Getting old isn’t for wimps.” No matter the age, aches and pains tap dance through our bodies like Tommy Tune in “Bye Bye Birdie”. One day it’s the hip as you step out of bed, or the back as you bend down to tie your shoes. On winter mornings, arthritic hands barge in uninvited straining to type or grip or hold. Perhaps it’s the strain to see the small print on the newspaper you’ve read the last 50 years or the emotional pain to remember what day it is. (TIP: Use the date on the newspaper to help, mom does). Bottom line, pain stinks but can be managed.
Pain is sensed through special nerves, carted over to the brain where the pain takes a number, is then registered, processed and perceived. What happens next is all about who we hire as our pain project manager.
I’ve spent the last few days with my parents and as my dad says, “when one ability goes away, another one pitches in to help.” He said this while driving, so I didn’t question it as he crossed through an intersection he’s driven hundreds of times.
According to The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, for “pain management to be effective in the elderly, physicians need to be skillful in pain assessment; capable of recognizing the importance of a holistic, interdisciplinary team approach to care; and knowledgeable of both pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic approaches to management.”
Here’s the caveat: finding a physician that possesses all of these qualities. However, whether you have a doctor who excels in prescribing or one who is homeopathic, here are 5 remedies that have helped my parents and are worth a shot. Of course, always see your doctor when needed…these are simply ideas:
- DISTRACTIONS – **HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**
On their website, StopPain.org, the group, Net of Care, discusses symptom management and makes another useful suggestion, and that is to use distraction “as a pain management technique in which patients focus their attention on something other than their pain and negative emotions.”
Whether it’s movement, meditation, prayer, conversation or interactions, distraction is the spoonful of sugar we need to help the medicine go down. In fact, don’t underestimate the spoonful of sugar, my sister brought by some 2-inch thick fudge and my mom finally sat down, forgot about the pain and enjoyed.
Here are mom and dad’s recommendations:
- pull out a puzzle
- listen to Helen Reddy, Anne Murray, whatever warms your heart, and sing along
- do a crossword puzzle or jumble
- take out a photo album
- tell stories
- talk on the phone
- “play outside” as dad says – prune, stack wood, plant, water or just have happy hour
- watch TV – Alaska shows for Dad, Downton Abbey for Mom, Golden Girls for both (they never disappoint)
2. Heat – Step aside Yule Log.
My parent’s home is about 85 degrees at all times. If not, the fireplace will be lit. Yet another reason to sit, relax and enjoy the view of the fireplace. As dad says, “it’s better than TV.” Also try a warm shower or bath, heating pad, or sunshine. All will relax muscles and spasms.
3. Deep Breathing
Slow, quiet breathing helps relax the body and mind and soothe pain. Lie or sit with one hand on your belly and take a deep, slow breath. Close your eyes and picture your belly filling a balloon with air. Exhale and let all of the air out of the balloon, letting go of any unhappy thoughts and listening to the sound of your breath as you inhale relaxation. Repeat six times.
4. Feed the birds!
This is another favorite I will elaborate on later. There is an amazing effect birds have on people, the calm surrender of sitting and watching someone else do the work when our bodies are just too tired.
Get outside. It’s that easy. Mask up, suit up and go outside!