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Guest Post: Managing Stress with Massage

This post was written by Alzheimer’s blogger Ann Romick who has been the primary caregiver for her husband who has Alzheimer’s. 

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Anyone who is a caregiver for an Alzheimer’s patient knows the meaning of stress.  Combating that stress has many avenues to explore and relief can be found in many ways.  My focus, today, is about massage.

My son-in-law Mark gives the best neck and shoulder rubs. I could feel my back muscles do a double tense before he suggested I sit down. Tense, that is, until they begin to relax as Mark’s firm fingers worked out the tightness from a busy and often hectic day with Ken, my husband for more than a half century who suffers from Alzheimer’s.  Into his 10th year since diagnosis, he has entered into the severe stages, and as his condition worsens so does my stress level.

Even in Ken’s early Alzheimer’s, it was nice to have someone close by who could help take out the kinks of stress and strain. But not very long ago Mark and our daughter Debbie moved 800 miles away to live closer to their grown children. Nevertheless, whenever they come to visit I get my neck and shoulder massage. I know, neck and shoulders are merely one small area compared to a complete, full-body relaxing massage. I’ve only had one of those.

Long before Ken’s Alzheimer’s we paid a visit to Thailand. I’ll skip telling about the beauty of the land, the charming people, the floating gardens and even the vast impact of its history and the small, but significant “Bridge On The River Kwai;” the blowing up of which rendered the Japanese without supplies during some of the intense fighting of WWII.

What they did have in Bangkok was a school for training masseurs and masseuses. To the tired tourists the school presented a deal: a special full-body massage done by their advanced students. I had always wanted a full-body massage and this was my opportunity. Ken wasn’t interested, but waited for me for the better part of an hour while I relaxed under the educated hands of a top student masseuse. Muscles were massaged in places where I didn’t know I had muscles. When she finished I felt like a new woman and ready for another trip to some far-away places with strange-sounding names.

Ken wasn’t like Mark in that he knew nothing about even a simple back rub, but he gave really great foot rubs. So between the two of them my neck-shoulder area was in good shape and so were my feet.

Meanwhile, our grandson Sean had become a licensed chiropractor. While having an adjustment is different than a massage it does put the body back in shape and is very relaxing.  There was also a bonus. Sean had purchased a piece of hand-held electronic equipment, which gave a rather respectable back massage with a flip of a switch. A large piece with rotating heads relaxed the patient making an adjustment that much easier. “I want one of those,” I told Sean. With Mark’s neck-shoulder rub, Ken giving me a foot rub, the back massager and you adjusting my back I’ll be in almost perfect shape.

So, here it is 2013. Mark has moved away, Ken has Alzheimer’s so I’ve lost some of my best therapy. But I still have Sean and the adjustments and the electronic back massage machine. Even when I’m alone, while it isn’t the best arrangement trying to give oneself a back massage, I do manage. Holding the massage apparatus in one hand and then in the other hand it works – the way you would use a back scratcher only much, much larger and electric.  It does ease the stress down my spine, but it’s hardly as relaxing as it would be if Ken were able to do the massage while I rested comfortably. Consequently, I do the best I can.

If I could fit it all into my busy schedule and chopped-up day I would probably make an appointment and try the full-body massage every so often and look into massage therapy – finances permitting — but I don’t see my way clear in the near future. Meanwhile, having once appreciated the benefits of one massage I highly recommend it for every caregiver out there – and anyone else in need of easing whatever happens to be your cross to bear.

To read more of how Ann handles caring for her AD husband at home go to www.alzheimers24-7.com.  Also watch for her forthcoming book: “Living, Loving and Caring – ALZHEIMER’S 24/7” at Amazon coming out this fall.

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