Exercising with Mamma and Watching TV

Pedal Exerciser
Before my mother moved closer to her children, she fell and then had a recovery at an excellent nursing and rehab center where she lived before.  The three therapists there wanted to keep her on- track to full recovery, so they taught me to do her therapy and arranged for an in-home therapist to evaluate her after the move.  For the most part, Mom was in a wheelchair and she could walk short distances with her walker.  To keep her mobile, the therapy included walking with someone behind her and exercises to keep her leg and arm muscles both flexible and strong.  The rehab center also provided a substitute list of exercises and activities we could do to keep her from getting bored.  Depending on what they did, the in-home therapists were usually there 1-2 days a week.  Other days, I would do her therapy or one of my brothers or nieces would try to do it with her using the worksheets prepared by the in-home therapist.


Mom’s morning routine was breakfast, shower, wait 20-30 minutes, and then start therapy.  Mamma started her exercise routine with a peddle exerciser at the foot of her chair.  She started at 10 minutes per day when she first moved to her new home.  She worked herself up to 15 minutes as the minimum she should do each day with a goal of reaching 20 minutes per day.  I would put a 15-minute timer on for her so she knew when she could stop if she wanted to.  Most days that I was there, she would bicycle for 20-25 minutes, if watching shopping TV.  To keep her interested, the TV had to be tuned to a channel cooking something or showing jewelry.  Mom occasionally liked to watch game shows where people guessed the value of items or dressed silly too.

While she did her cycling, I made her bed, cleaned the bathroom, or started her laundry.  I could hear the cycle squeak as she peddled faster.  I would hear the timer from another room, finish what I was doing, and then go into the living room.  Sometimes she would be waiting when I came back, other times she would still be cycling.  I would say, “The timer went off.  You can stop.” 

To which, she would reply “I’m just trying to finish 10 more [pedal cycles], give me a minute” or “I guess I was busy and did not hear it.”  Busy being caught up in whatever was on the TV – that is.  She loved to comment on jewelry that was ugly, beautiful, or unbelievably inexpensive.  Often she would shake her head and ask “How can they sell that so cheap?”  If she was watching cooking related to the latest pan or kitchen gadget, she would comment on how she would have loved to have that back when she cooked, or how dangerous she thought the item seemed, or how tasty/yucky the recipe sounded.

The “10 more” was a challenge to her to go past the minimum.  I noticed when she would want to stop with a therapist; they would ask her if she could do (#) more before stopping.  She would always do the extra. I followed suit by asking “Can you do 10 more?” when she would want to stop cycling before the timer went off.  I would count out loud how many times her right knee went up until she reached the 10, often she would want to do “10 more” after that if the timer had not gone off.

The cycling loosened Mom up so we could easily do other physical therapy.  Mamma called her therapy time her “exercises” and referred to each of her therapists as her “nurse”.   I did most of her exercises with her by standing or sitting in front of her doing those while she followed along with exercises in her chair/recliner and recliner pelvic tilts for the number of counts the therapists had written on her worksheet for that month.   So I got somewhat of a workout too!  Sometimes she would try to cheat and only halfway do a chair exercise or begin counting so I would lose my count.   I would point this out to her and she would: shrug, deny it, give me a mischievous grin, or make a funny face.  I would grin back or laugh at her face.  If I laughed, she would start giggling, which of course would get me giggling too.  Then we would have to wait until we calmed down and then start over on whatever exercise we were doing. 

My mother did not understand the standard names of many of the leg and arm strengthening exercises, so we made up our own “cutesy” names.  Guess what?  This caused confusion with any therapist personnel changes!  To resolve this, I wrote our exercise names down on their worksheet so Mom would understand what they were asking her to do.  This helped since each therapist tried to keep doing whatever the main one had written up on the monthly worksheet. 

If any of Mom’s muscles hurt after exercising, I would remind her how to do a two-finger massage in the sore location at 2-minute intervals.  If the massage did not work after 3 tries, I promised to give her Tylenol.  The massaging usually did the trick.

After leg and arm work, Mamma would do some hand therapy for her arthritis, while continuing to watch her TV show.  This would be followed by speech therapy if there was time; otherwise speech therapy would be after lunch.  Once therapy was complete, she would rest for 30-40 minutes before lunch.   If I was not helping her with hand therapy I would go make us a lunch.

I would cook enough so that she and my brother could eat leftovers on another day.  When I cooked there, I usually made simple stuff like the soups and casseroles they both enjoyed (see food recipes for some of her favorites) taking onto account how long it might need to cook.

Once lunch was ready, my mom would use her lift chair to stand, get her walker, and head for the table with me behind her.  To keep her walking using the method and pace the therapist suggested, I made up a silly song to sing when we were walking together.  Sometimes my mom would smile at the song, other times she might find it hard to walk because she was laughing so hard at the different voices I was trying to sing in.  I tried to make it fun so she would not worry about falling or try to walk too fast.

At the table, mother would take her medication and vitamins first.  Then she would eat her lunch quickly, if she liked it or was looking forward to a favorite dessert.  She ate slower if the food was merely okay or if she wanted to try to carry on a conversation.    Sometimes she would get upset if I did not hear her correctly and other times she would laugh when I would say “I thought you said …” We rarely had communication problems, unless we did not get to do speech therapy before lunch.

Most days after lunch, my mom would walk back to her lift chair, sit down, and then either read a magazine or take a short nap.  Since she had all her exercise behind her, she pretty much stayed in her chair relaxing until dinner time.  

See my next post for more therapy ideas. 

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