The characteristics former wrestlers bring to caregiving are determination, compassion, and competitiveness.
It’s the same with all athletes.
The statistics on Parkinson’s guys say they will die from either pneumonia or falling. Grandpa Ken had pneumonia after eating an ill-prepared meal at one facility. He’s fallen at others.
Statistically he’s right on time.
My goal is to provide him, and my mother-in-law who shares in his care, the best environment possible, one absent the fears of growing old and vulnerable. Keeping him on his feet is the best way to accomplish that. I share my goals with Grandpa Ken, treating him more like a training partner than a geriatric patient.
When he came home from the hospital, I wanted to reach him where all others’ had failed. When a man’s time comes up, so it seemed, they turn off their senses. Ken had been in the Marines, and I knew how Army Drill Sergeants spoke, so I had first-hand experience when I pulled a chair up and gave him his first Parkinson’s Boot Camp pep talk.
It went like this:
“You and I will work together. We can do everything we need to do if we cooperate with each other. The only thing that will try and ruin our work is Parkinson’s. Parkinson’s wants you to curl up in a ball. It wants you to sit, leaned over in your wheelchair with your chest on your thighs. It wants you to fall. Parkinson’s wants to choke you. But we’re going to fight Parkinson’s every day, every minute.
“We’re going to bring our A-game and we’re going to compete. Parkinson’s is tough. It’s challenging you. I can help you give it a fair fight. It’s taken its share of opponents, won it’s share of matches, but we will fight it together. If it’s only you fighting, Parkinson’s wins easily. If it’s just me, and you don’t help, Parkinson’s has already won. But if we hit it together, if we surprise it and hit it where it doesn’t expect, then we have a chance. That will give us a chance every day and the first thing in the fight is getting out of bed. Let’s go.”
With an old wrestler’s sense of body leverage and balance, I helped Grandpa Ken out of bed. He took a few steps. The next day, he took a few more, until he was taking laps around the center staircase, moving from hardwood floors, to carpet, to brick. He wasn’t wearing his Nikes, but he should have been.
It’s never a fair fight, but if you move with it, you get a shot in now and then.