Here’s what I learned recently.
Pickleball is important.
If you don’t know what pickleball is, it’s a combination of tennis, ping-pong, and badminton. You can probably get a better explanation if you google it.
But it our mid-sized Midwestern town, it’s a thing. It’s a big thing. Perhaps it’s a big thing in your area as well. It’s played at our local rec centers, and it can get pretty cut-throat, or so I am told.
The typical pickleball athlete, from what I know, isn’t in their 20s or 30s, but rather in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and even 80s.
I’ve heard more about it recently as I’ve gotten to know some local women who care for their husbands with dementia. I have spoken to some who have done the dementia simulation at the house. I’ve zoomed or talked on the phone with others.
And it often comes up.
They tell me that they play pickleball. They don’t play once a week. It’s typically 5 or so days a week. I’d like to say it’s just for fun–that they don’t care if they win. But they do.
A couple weeks ago a woman in her 80s told me about how she regularly kicks the butt of much younger pickleball players. I want to be her in 40 years.
Why am I telling you this?
These women have spouses with dementia. Some of their husbands are in memory care. Some of them must pay for someone to stay at home with their partner when they play pickleball. Others are comfortable leaving their partners at home when they play.
When I’ve talked to these women, pickleball glides into the conversation naturally–because it’s part of their lives, and an important part of their lives.
If I could give one piece of advice to these women it would be this: Keep playing pickleball.
Okay, so maybe it doesn’t have to be pickleball. Maybe it’s an art class. Perhaps it’s riding a bike or taking a class at a local community college. Maybe it’s volunteering at the local food bank.
Caregivers….keep doing your thing. What do you enjoy doing? What keeps you healthy mentally and physically? What gives your life meaning? What is fun for you?
That’s your thing.
If it’s pickleball, keep playing.
And I know that’s not easy. What if you can’t leave your loved one at home alone any more? And you can’t afford to pay someone to come in and care for them? What if you were up all night because your partner was having hallucinations? What if you don’t have the energy because you are too stressed to eat?
I know there are challenges. I know you might have to make changes. But make it happen.
You are a better care partner when you do the things that make you the person that you are. Don’t let go of those hobbies.
Maybe you have to do them less often. Maybe you do them in a different way. Perhaps you do a YouTube yoga class rather than going to the studio. Maybe you visit with a book club over Zoom rather than meeting in person. Still…make it happen. Let go of the guilt of making it a priority.
You are still you.
Don’t let go of you.
And if that means being a pickleball butt-kicker, I am behind you 100%.