A few weeks ago, on the way home from my sister’s day program, we stopped by the nature trail to try out the new transport chair. My sister, Michelle, has Down Syndrome and Alzheimer’s Disease, and she’s become more and more unsteady on her feet, so we’ve started using a transport chair for walks more extended than those we take around the house.
I’ve walked this trail before and thought Michelle would enjoy it. It’s more of a blacktop path, wide and smooth, easy for pushing the chair. The woods on either side change over time as spring fills in the trees and ground cover until it becomes dense with foliage and colorful wildflowers by the time summer rolls around. Then, the trees are painted with fall colors for too short a time until branches are bare and tree trunks are visible again.
It is always quiet and peaceful there, which I crave these days.
Learning to slow down
The grade is mostly flat, but I have to push harder to meet a slight rise in the path in a few places. It forces me to slow down, and that’s a good thing. I’m a checklist kind of gal, so getting through a daily to-do list is my modus operandi. At least it was before retiring into a full-time family caregiver reality.
Now, I’m trying to ditch the checklist mentality, and being outdoors is helping. At the nature trail, the greatest challenge is getting my phone out quick enough to take pictures of the constant distraction of birds, bugs, and flowers. It was easy before I started pushing a transport chair, but things are different now.
I must remember this new lifestyle isn’t a project. It is my life. The only step I need to be concerned with is the next one in front of me. So, it forces me to concentrate, at least a little, or jam my toe on one of the wheels. Ouch! Do that once or twice, and you’ll remember to slow down, too.
The danger of distraction
Now, about taking pictures. At one point on our walk, I saw a Blue Jay land in a tall Maple tree, and in typical Blue Jay boldness, it didn’t seem bothered by us. So, I thought, why not attempt a photo?
I stopped and grabbed the phone out of my pocket, turned away from the chair, clicked the camera app on the home screen, and was just about to take a picture. But I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. It was the transport chair pivoting away from the path. Before I could react, the front two wheels had already gone down the six-inch beveled drop-off.
Michelle was about to go head over wheels into standing water left over from the previous night’s thunderstorm.
I quickly pulled back the teetering chair and engaged the brake I had forgotten to set when we stopped. Whew! Unfortunately, I allowed myself to get distracted by a BIRD and put my sister in danger. That freaked me out. But thank the Lord, we avoided disaster.
With a harried breath, I turned to see if the Blue Jay was still there awaiting his close-up. Of course not! He must have watched the whole thing before flying away with a smile on his beak. I am sure it was hilarious to watch, and so I all could do was laugh too. It would have to be a photo for another day. I only wish my sister could have appreciated the humor of the situation. She was not amused.
Giving yourself space to change old habits
Nobody’s perfect. To be fair, it was only the second time using the transport chair. But, at the risk of giving away my age, I must tell you that I haven’t pushed a stroller in decades and never a transport chair, so this was all new.
But we survived to try again and, I’m happy to say, we have several times now, without incident.
As a caregiver, I’m responsible for keeping another person safe, which involves so many things like meds, safe movement, and meals. So, I’m learning that it’s appropriate to ditch the checklist, slow down and pay attention. (Click here to read more about my family caregiver life here.)
The good news is that this caregiving life still has some excitement left in it, and it just might be the kind that makes you laugh, too.
Is slowing down a struggle for you, too? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.