A new pilot program aims to take care of those who take care of others.
Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) and El Camino Hospital have teamed up to offer Meet & Move, a “walk and talk” program designed to give adult caregivers a breather from their primary duties – caring for elderly or disabled loved ones.
The free program kicked off in October and currently serves caregivers in Los Altos, Mountain View, Cupertino and surrounding communities.
According to program consultant Cindi Mariner, the program’s primary aim is to address the physical, emotional and social needs of participating caregivers. She noted that all too often, caregivers experience feelings of loneliness and isolation because of the demands of their work.
“It allows me to get back into my own body,” said Mariner, who cares for her elderly mother and brother. “I can tell you that on a daily basis, I can check out of my body, because you get so into taking care of somebody else. … It makes a huge difference to know that you’re not alone in this.”
The program schedules weekly walking groups for participating caregivers within their immediate communities. Mariner added that caregivers are invited to participate in walks and other activities as their schedules allow. Each participant sets personal fitness goals and is provided a Fitbit tracker to monitor physical activity.
The program also hosts other planned activities – such as excursions to local events and sites – in a bid to offer additional opportunities to socialize. It uses PAMF’s multigenerational online network, LinkAges, to allow participants to communicate and schedule activities.
“Everyone may not have gone through exactly the same thing but awfully similar things,” said Mariner, who first registered for the program in an earlier trial phase a year ago. “It’s like therapy. It’s a therapy session – and it happens every single day.”
Sunnyvale resident Dianna Aquino, for one, noted that she signed up for the program at a recent El Camino Hospital orientation event to incorporate more social and physical fitness opportunities into her life. Aquino holds a full-time job and also helps her 86-year-old mother by managing her finances and medical bills – which she termed a “juggling act.”
“That’s where it gets consuming, because you’re thinking for somebody else and you’re managing for somebody else – and then you’re trying to do your own stuff,” she said. “It’s kind of like when you’re holding a bunch of groceries. You’re trying to walk to the car and things start falling out. … One of those things is exercise. It’s just getting out and having time for yourself.”
Mariner noted that the program has a goal of registering 100 participants by June. Since the fall launch, it has enrolled 30 members.
Her message to caregivers curious about the program is simple – you can take care of others better by caring for yourself.
“You’re not being selfish by taking care of yourself,” she said. “You’re actually doing the opposite.”
For more information, call 934-3556 or visit elcaminohospital.org/meetandmove.