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Daddy Please! - Naturally Maintaining Health While Caring For A Parent

April 13, 2014 Mary S. Wallis

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Mary shares tips on breathing, lifestyle, and homeopathy to enhance the caretaker's health while caring for an elderly patient.  

He plays the trump card of being my father. That will never change. However, his diminishing cognitive skills and memory require my intervention more and more. I am still learning how to be of service without belittling or patronizing. The trick is understanding what his needs are and meeting them before or at the moment he realizes the need. And with that responsibility comes the duty to maintain my own health and sanity. As a licensed acupuncturist/massage therapist who practices meridian therapy, I prefer natural medicine. I find it more affordable and accessible.

Lifestyle does make a difference.   The first natural tool is deep diaphragmatic breathing. Practicing this at minimum five minutes per day helps release endorphins. Endorphins are 500 times more potent than morphine. They relieve pain and give one a sense of well being. Your body does not get used to them like artificial opiates. And nothing can be cheaper on the wallet than breathing deeply.  

Simply lay, sit, or stand quietly. Place one hand with your index finger in your navel. Where the second finger falls naturally is the "Tan den" (Japanese term for sea of energy). When you breathe into this area your life energy is fortified. Breathing out from this area moves that fortified life force throughout your body. Your breath should lift your hand first (belly) and then fill the lower and then the upper regions of the lungs. As you breathe out, your belly falls first. The belly controls the rate at which the breath leaves. It is easiest to learn by placing a heavy book over the Tan den while one is lying flat on one's back. Practice at least five minutes a day. Check in often throughout the day and see where your breath is. Breathing in the upper chest is a flight-or-fight anxious breath. The practice is to feel yourself breathing into your Tan den with every breath and for the rest of your life.  

Stimulating the abdomen (the area from below the rib cage to the pubic bone) greatly improves digestion and all functions of the body. In Asian medicine terminology it is called the Hara. The Hara is the Alpha and the Omega of the life force. It is where the energy emerges from and returns to. It has long been felt that emotions are stored here. When something is stored too long, it becomes stagnant. My sense is that stagnant energy loses communication with the whole. To function properly, it needs to be reintegrated with the whole. To do this, use a dry wash cloth or natural fiber body brush.Prior to your daily bath or once a day, rub the abdomen in a clockwise fashion to cause a slight pink tone on the skin. Be firm but gentle.  

What you put into your body as fuel makes the difference in how smoothly your emotions flow. Asian medical masters have said, "the ki (energy) you consume today is the ki you are tomorrow". Negative emotions and stagnated emotions oftentimes cause us to reach for foods that comfort but do not nourish. Challenging as it may be, proper nutrition helps us see more clearly and be more patient. Mikoto Masahilo Nakazono O Sensei, the grandfather of my form of meridian therapy, said in his book The Real Sense of Natural Therapy: "The human substance...indicates through the number of teeth that we have, how to naturally harmonize with the order of the universe." His percentages of types of foods in the adult with 32 teeth are: "Grains 20/32 = 62.5%; Vegetables 8/32 = 25%; Animal protein 4/32 = 12.5%".  

It is best to eat locally grown organic food when you can get it. Chew foods so that they are a slurry being swallowed. Liquids should also be chewed to allow the digestive juices of the mouth to mingle with the liquids. Digestion begins in the mouth. The season dictates the cooking method. In Spring steaming is best. Summer allows raw foods. Fall urges us to bake. Winter's stir-fries retain nutrients while helping the body to digest without using up too much heat to do so.  

Exercise moves energy. Each constitution requires its own form of exercise. Some people require relaxing exercise such as yoga, stretching, swimming, or walking. Others need that hard sweaty work out with greater aerobic impact. Whatever it is, choose some form of exercise and do it. Changing the type of exercise and mixing it up through the week is best. For instance, I ride my bicycle several times per week and walk other days.  

Supporting yourself with meridian therapy (using the energetic pulses to ascertain where the imbalances lie and then addressing those imbalances with tools such as acupuncture, acupressure, moxibustion, Asian body work, etc.) definitely makes a difference and has hugely impacted my life positively. I also have experienced the benefits of therapeutic massage. I recommend them both to support health especially during challenging times.  

BHI Heel's "Calming" taken at least once a day and up to eight times a day for those particularly challenging days has worked miracles for me. Three times a day is the manufacturers recommendation. When Dad has gotten resistant to my gentle reminders of medication, etc., "Calming" has helped me keep my patience and remember my compassion. "Calming" is a homeopathic preparation that gently reduces anxiety. I don't take things so personally. It causes no drowsiness or emotional numbness.  

May these tools help you with what ever challenges you may be experiencing. I'm grateful for these tools. They have made it easier to spend time with my father at a time that is challenging to both of us: Dad due to the diminishing of skills with age; me with mourning the loss of my father that was. I am grateful! My mother died of cancer when I was thirteen. My family sheltered me to protect me. The doctors sheltered my family to protect them. That act of sheltering kept us from having valuable interactions, however difficult emotionally. So I am grateful that I get to experience my father in this the winter of his existence. And my intent is to stay healthy while being there.


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