by Nel Andraos and Timorei Spaulding
In the Parkinson’s community, it’s common knowledge that frequent intense workouts targeting and challenging symptoms curb their progression. Given this, participating in multiple fitness programs should be routine. Fortunately, not all people with Parkinson’s require caregiver assistance. Those who do, rely on a spouse, friend, or professional. Whether assisting a loved one or client, a partnership forms based on trust with an emphasis on safety. That’s why Rock Steady Boxing coaches at I AM Movement in Irvine prefer the term “care partner” because sometimes a person’s well-being is a team effort.
We also recognize that a care partner’s job is demanding and exhausting. It’s hard to witness a loved one struggle with PD challenges while adapting to your new gatekeeper role. Patience and dignity are a must. Inevitably, relationship dynamics change which is emotionally draining. That’s why it’s essential for care partners to carve out time for themselves so they can rejuvenate to avoid burnout. But this shouldn’t be done during class time. As coaches, our mission is to instruct and motivate our PD fight team, in a safe and caring environment, which includes the assistance of care partners. We created a safety training program that outlines care partner (and volunteer) class roles that can apply to any PD exercise program. Highlights include:
– Care partners’ main responsibility in class is their boxers’ safety.
– Care partners may participate in activities alongside their boxers to help guide them.
– Care partners should understand classes are not their personal workout, they are there to assist.
– Care partners must keep a watchful eye on their boxers, intervening when necessary to help with unsteadiness, lightheadedness, hydration, incontinence, confusion, etc.
– Care partners are required to actively help their boxers throughout class. If they need to miss a class, they must find a trusted substitute or alert the gym in advance so a volunteer can be scheduled.
– Care partners must check their personal problems and politics at the door. Classes are about fighting back against Parkinson’s, fun, and community.
– Care partners must encourage and motivate their boxers, no bullying. Class is not a competition. Everyone’s case of Parkinson’s is unique, so boxer comparisons are not permitted.
I AM Movement knows care partners need support too. In early 2023, we will offer a support group exclusively for these pillars of strength led by Kelli French, a dedicated spouse who cared for her husband with Parkinson’s and Lewy body dementia for over twelve years. Members will have the opportunity to interact with others who understand the physical and emotional demands of being a care partner. If interested in joining or have questions, please call 949-783-9803 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nel Andraos and Timorei Spaulding are the mother-daughter dynamo team that owns I Am Movement in Irvine, CA. You can find them coaching Rock Steady Boxing classes most days of the week.