My mother only had a ninth grade education and was the daughter of a tenant farmer, but even with these limitations, she lived a full life. She raised three children who are now college educated professionals. She loved people and gardening, and her neighbors in her small town called her the “flower girl.” She could grow anything in her yard but she could never explain her gardening techniques. She could just eyeball a plant and know what it needed as though it talked to her. A little cow manure there and little Epsom salt here. Much of it was just plain intuition.
Those who knew my mother, however, knew that many of her passions and accomplishments were hindered by a life-long struggle with chronic pain. Mama suffered with degenerative disc disease, COPD, and a myriad of other health issues that caused her to live on pain medications most of her life. The pain meds dulled her senses and made her balance unsteady. Because of her spinal condition, she fell often and broke bones. Pain stole Mama’s ability to work in the soil. She lived alone and was isolated and on disability for the last fifteen years of her life. Often, her speech was slurred when her pain was managed by the medicines.
From time to time, I would take her to the pool in the summer for a respite. When she stepped into the warm waters, her entire face would change. Her gaze would soften, her brow would relax. She would crack a joke. The water gave her relief for those minutes in the pool. The therapeutic properties of the water would relax her muscles and joints and relieve the pressure on her spine.
Watching the water’s impact on my own mother made me want to share this natural pain remedy with others. I have now received training as a water fitness professional to help others who have chronic pain. I have created a structured, progressive program for pain management in the water where a participant can learn to move safely to increase their synovial fluids and lubricate their joints. By partnering with participants, I give them specific tools that help them to tolerate their pain and increase their quality of life. We learn techniques together that calm the central nervous systems down so that the can pain can be put in prospective.
Mama never had the opportunity to explore the healing of therapeutic techniques in the pool other than the occasional dip in a hotel pool. And though she passed away nearly twelve years ago, one of my greatest joys now is giving to others what I could not give to her—the opportunity to put the pain in perspective, and to remember that “pain is inevitable but suffering is not” (Katherine Casey).
Since working with those in physical pain, when I entered into the Senior Living industry, I had the privilege of implementing an aquatic class for those with dementia that received international attention at the International Conference for Evidence Based Aquatic Therapy in Las Vegas in April 2018. The joy, freedom, and increased quality of life during the pool session and the two hours following the experience is like no other experience I have witnessed in my professional life. Please view the youtube link here (https://youtu.be/bizMpVmW-Ag) and contact me for more information about how I can assist your community in implementing this powerful wellness tool.