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Caregiver Tips to Stay Active

exercise-bedby Ann Fonfa, Survivor, Cancer Patient Advocate


When my mother was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, she lived with my sister.  I was only working part time for my husband’s business so I could fly out to spend time with her and give my sister a break.  I would spend two to three weeks with her at a time.  It wasn’t long before I realized my own health was suffering.  My mother didn’t want to walk about like she used to and I was growing uncomfortable with my own physical inactivity.

I want to make it quite clear: I am not athletic although I’m married to someone who has played championship racquet ball, winning awards in his late 60s.  But I do like to stretch and move.  Nowadays I make sure I always do about twenty minutes a day.  There is a wonderful medical doctor and researcher at UCLA named Toni Yancey who has a book  Instant Recess where she talks about ten minutes a day making a difference.  You have to love that.


So I created a series of exercises that would keep me feel better. I used a floor mat (or towel) and began simple ‘half’ situps.  I did sets of 20 then did leg lifts.  I know these were effective because my pants actually got loose at the waistband!


At the same time, it is important for all of us to eat fresh fruits and vegetables.  Everyone benefits from that.  If you do the food shopping, make a shopping list ahead of time and really stick to it.  Cross off the sodas and the chips, and make sure your location has fresh fruits and vegetables.  That way you and your loved one will feel better.  If they are having trouble eating, blenders are great inventions!  Fruit and veggie smoothies are delicious.


Another series of exercises I noted was valuable for both of us:  as we lay in bed, we rotated our ankles in each direction 10 times.  We raised our arms above our head as we sat in chairs.  This got the lymph system flowing and is good for the immune system.


Chair yoga is actually practiced in many nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  It is something worth exploring.  The benefits of any type of yoga are well-studied these days and include lowering blood pressure, reducing stress and helping with sleep.  Another thought – sprinkling some lavender on the bed or pillow can help everyone relax.  You don’t need much to get that result.


If you can take a walk outside that’s great.  There are some studies showing that even if all your exercise is indoors, you can look at a poster of the outdoors and achieve some of the benefit.  Isn’t that amazing?  I’m lucky, my current home in south Florida is on a lake and we are visited by tons of birds.  I am totally fascinated by these visitors and now have several bird books so I can look them up.


I recently had occasion to work with a physical therapist and discovered the use of stretch bands.  Buy the very lightweight ones – they hook over a doorknob and create the tension needed to stretch.   I also have a hoola hoop which is very good for balance.  Simple stuff all of this, but together it puts YOU in a better place.




AnnFonfaAnn Fonfa was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 1993 and has spent the last twenty years gathering information about healthy behaviors.  She is not an expert in anything, but someone who continues to walk the walk.  She’s served on many panels and has done grant reviews.  She loves to travel to meetings and conferences to gather and share information.  Due to suffering from multiple chemical sensitivity MCS, she didn’t end up with chemotherapy or radiation.  She’s feeling well and follows her own program of eating lots of fresh fruits/veggies, being physically active, detoxing, relaxing and enjoying life and taking some dietary supplements.  She’s the founder of providing information online since June 1999.  Very active on Facebook and on Twitter @annieppleseed and since 2008 hosting Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Cancer Therapies conferences in West Palm Beach and occasionally elsewhere.



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