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Those Inexplicable Instructions!
It happens to every caregiver.
You're at the doctor's with your loved one. You and your
loved one are both feeling well, and your loved one is
looking forward to a vacation away-with some strenuous
physical activity. Just to check, you tell the doctor
your plans: you're off, together, to the Great Smoky
Mountains for some hiking. A concerned frown comes over
the doctor's face, and your doctor says, "I really don't
think you should do that..." The voice trails off,
and if there's an explanation offered, you don't quite
understand it, or it's lost in the immediate impact of
the doctor's statement.
What do you do? You could...
Listen to what you think the doctor said, and change
your plans, even if you're not sure why; keep your plans
and go, since you (and your loved one) feel fine, in
spite of the doctor's concerns; or go back: ask for a
Please understand. Why would the doctor be concerned
about healthful exercise with someone who's ill and
needs care? While we all understand that we want to keep
our charges as active and fit as possible within their
limitations, there may be subtle problems that, as
caregivers, we don't see.
For example, a simple caution to avoid an activity such
as hiking may cover your doctor's concerns that:
Your loved one's bones may be unusually brittle or
susceptible to fracture (osteoporosis, metastatic
cancer, renal disease, long-term corticosteroid steroid
therapy); the skin and soft tissue of the legs have poor
circulation and may develop chronic ulcers or long-term
healing problems after a minor injury or infection
(diabetes, renal disease, peripheral vascular disease,
chemotherapy, lymphedema); peripheral nerve problems may
predispose to missteps by making it hard for your loved
one to sense or control his exact foot placement on
uneven ground (diabetes, renal disease, alcoholism); or
your loved one has intellectual limitations which may
predispose her to wandering away and getting lost in
unfamiliar surroundings (Alzheimer's disease, stroke,
other organic brain syndromes).
Before you change your plans because of your doctor's
concerns, or decide to ignore the concern and take your
chances, ask the doctor to clarify, in words you can
understand, and apply to your daily caring for your
loved one. If the doctor is concerned enough to want to
limit what sounds like a completely normal vacation
activity, the concerns may apply to the rest of daily
living as well and as a caregiver, you need to
understand the severity and depth of problem the doctor
is seeing. If the doctor is merely flagging the need to
take sensible precautions as you venture forth, you need
to understand the full extent of those precautions and
decide how best to apply them to your plans.