Would Hydrotherapy Be An Option?

We had the great fortune this year to rent a beach house for our summer vacation that included a handicap accessible pool. The pool was large enough for our entire family to be in it (seven of us) but small enough that by afternoon the water temperature was around bath-water range. While some people might consider that a disadvantage, for Lynn it was just what he needed.  Cold water tends to make his spasticity worse.  Plus, Lynn is like a cold-blooded animal—he takes on the temperature of his surroundings; therefore, naturally occurring warm water was perfect for him.

Each day, we took Lynn to the pool where he hung out with us for at least an hour.  I would put his arms across a buggy-board or water noodle and use that as a floatation device.  The float would be in front and I would hold on from behind.  While I held him, he used the buoyancy of the water to help him exercise not only his legs but also his arms and torso.  It was a complete body work-out which did not result in serious fatigue.  It was fun and therapy at the same time.  While he exercised, he was able to be part of the family activities and enjoy the time with his two-year old grandson (who would have grown gills if we had stayed there any longer, I’m sure.)

Now that we are home again, Lynn realizes even more the advantages of hydrotherapy.  When he saw his chiropractor this week, she commented on how much more flexibility he had than usual.  She attributed that to the passive resistance of exercising in the water.  Helping him exercise in the water was also easier for me.  Though I had to hold onto him and even hold him up at times, the water served as a support system for the weight of his body keeping me from being as fatigued and reducing the stress impact on my own muscles. With that realization, he has begun to explore the possibility of buying an exercise pool.

The prospect of buying and installing a pool has me filled with mixed emotions, however.

The pros

  • Helping Lynn to exercise in a pool would be easier on me that the muscle stress currently occurring as I help hold, lift and otherwise move his limbs.  He has very little ability to move either of his legs and can only move independently one of his arms so the effort required by me is greater than the efforts he can make alone.
  • An indoor pool in one of our spare rooms would be much handier than traveling 45-60 minutes to use a handicap accessible, heated pool in a nearby city. It would also take a huge chunk of time out of my day. Not only would I have to be away from work for the period of time he was exercising but all the time required to go to and from the exercise location and time to get him dressed and undressed.
  • Once it was bought and paid for, we would not have monthly membership fees.
  • The exercise would certainly improve his health and well-being and most likely, my own. For me, it would also likely help my arthritis pain and muscle flexibility so it would help us both physically.

The cons

  • Exercising in a pool at home while less time than traveling to one, would add at least an hour to my schedule and maybe more when it already takes three hours to get him settled before I go to work each day now.
  • The cost of installation, house modifications, exercise and safety equipment, and a lift device to get him into and out of the pool without assistance would cost approximately $15,000-$20,000. Not bad for an indoor pool but a lot more money than what we have lying around.
  • I’m sure there would be some kind of maintenance requirements that would add work to my already full day.
  • What if we do all this, and he gets worse or I get to where I can’t put him into the pool?  Then we would have spent a ton of money for something we cannot use.

I tend to be a bit pessimistic so I lean more toward the negative bullets while Lynn is more optimistic and focuses primarily on the positive benefits from water exercise. I certainly want to support him with this but on the other hand I remember the $12000 4-wheel drive wheelchair that sits never used and abandoned in our living room after it was bought four years ago and found to be defective.  We can’t get the manufacturer to repair it so that money is down the tubes. What if that happened with the pool?

My other concern is that he wants to take his retirement money out to pay for this!  That really frightens me. He only plans to use half of his retirement money but still….what am I going to have to help me take care of him in the years ahead?  If he uses his retirement, will that mean I have to work longer before I can retire?  Will I have to work until I literally drop dead to be able to manage our bills?  It’s scary…and like I said, I’m a pessimist now at heart so maybe I’m over-reacting but what if I’m not?  Can I take that risk?

I hate that I have to trade off his well-being for our financial security but I think that may be the reality. He’s looking now for other options; maybe a pool for us to use for a while until we see how it goes?  I really want him to get this pool but that small voice of worry keeps me from being willing to say, “Go ahead.”

Just another financially driven decision where what is best in one way may not be what is best in others.

Decisions, decisions, decisions….

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