Daughter caregiver returns home from her hike in the mountains to her father, adult female, adult male

Caregiver Survival Skills From the Wild West

My husband and I recently went on a trip to Glacier National Park in Montana. We had an amazing time and we were blessed by good weather. We chose to go on some more unusual excursions that I normally would not have the guts to do.

I decided that if we survived the year of 2020 like most people, then we could take some risks in order to truly experience nature at this unique national park. We learned some basic survival skills that I find to be transferrable to survival skills for caregivers who care for those with Parkinson’s Disease.

Taking care of a loved one with a chronic disease can be stressful in many ways. Getting away on a vacation was a big stress reliever to me as I help take care of my 86 year old father with Parkinson's disease (PD).

Prepare for the future

I learned that being prepared for what is ahead helps you worry less.

On our trip, we discovered that when you are out in the woods of Montana, it is not unusual to meet wild critters big and small so you need to pack bear spray and mosquito spray. Then to prepare for the outdoor elements includes dressing in the right clothing, wearing a hat and hiking boots.

These steps made our trip more enjoyable. As a caregiver, you can be prepared by understanding what is best for your loved one with PD at the current moment and what lies ahead. Learn more the disease through books or online at ParkinsonsDisease.net.

Finding strength in numbers

Secondly, I learned that you have strength in numbers of people.

A guided tour for going out into nature helps you know what to expect and to help you learn along the way. My husband and I went on a bike tour of Going-to-the-Sun Road, which is the main road that goes through Glacier National Park. We had 2 tour guides to navigate the 16 mile round trip up and back the mountain road.

Of course, if I had followed my previous advice to be prepared (like others in our group) to get electric bikes to get us all the way to the top! We did make it 8 miles up with our regular bikes. Live and learn.

The takeaway in this lesson is that caregivers can get help from other family members, friends or support groups.  It helps so you do not get burned out if you are the only caregiver.

Take care of yourself

Lastly, exercise helps you maintain your mental and physical health.

My husband and I went on a 3-day two night camping trip to a remote area of the park. We hiked in 6 and a half miles to our camp site and carried all our gear in our back packs. I’m not a camper but I told myself that if really wanted to experience the outdoors then I was up for the challenge of hiking and camping.

It helped that I was in good shape for the more difficult hiking. On a side note: I also now appreciate the similar outdoor conditions that my wildland fire fighter daughter experiences being on a fire crew in Idaho.

As a caregiver, having the right frame of mind and taking care of yourself are necessary so you can focus on your loved one with PD.

Share your story

Back home in Illinois, I realize that not everyone has the ability to travel when you are a caregiver, but I hope you enjoyed my story and gleaned a few survival skills.

You can share your own story with us at ParkinsonsDisease.net, get out in groups of like minded people for a picnic, or you can enjoy some exercise outdoors.

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