A senior female points to her eyes ears and back

Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes: Self-Care With AMD

Last updated: August 2022

“Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes...” That was once my exercise phrase. Now my life is governed by “Eyes and ears, back and knees, back and knees.” It's my motto for self-care and aging with AMD (age-related macular degeneration).

Eyes

Have I checked my Amsler grid to look for any change in my vision? Did I take my AREDS2 vitamins this morning and evening?

Saltwater drops for keeping eyes moisturized? Sunglasses and hat on as I walk out the door? Have I 'eaten my colors' today with multiple servings of red (tomatoes), orange (carrots and citrus), dark green (kale), and purple (beets)? Check my schedule for the next meeting with my retina specialist.

Ears

My hearing loss happened long before I was diagnosed with AMD. So far, it has had much more effect on my life. Every day I need to check my purse for extra hearing aid batteries, and make sure the earbuds are free from wax.

In noisy places such as restaurants and parties, I’ll need to fiddle with the setting so I can hear but not be blown away. “What?”, “I can’t hear you”, and “Sorry” are oft spoken.

Back

The back started to demand my attention within the last 5 years. Added to my daily list: a break after 20 minutes of sitting, exercises to strengthen my core muscles, a lumbar pillow in the car and on my office chair, occasional in Epsom salt soaks, and time with my heating pad.

Knees

My aging knees have just started twinging a bit as I climb stairs, so I know to check about how to take care of them.

A different time

In our 20’s and 30’s, we usually sailed through our days. Eyes, ears, knees, and backs were largely ignored except for the annual visit to update our eyeglasses/contacts lenses. We even smoked.

If we thought about how we would deal with our health in our 60s or 70s, it was with a nonchalance based on health benefits of youth. We knew, of course, that some people were not exempt from disease and accidents. I guess that most women in my generation worried more about their weight than the possibility that hours of “sunbathing” would damage their sight and skin.

We saw women bent over with “widow’s hump” but never thought that cutting our calcium-rich foods would lead to osteoporosis (weak and brittle bones). The exercise was designed to make us attractive not to build strong bones. By the way, men are also susceptible to osteoporosis.

Self-care and aging with AMD

Yes, all of this can be tedious when what I really want to do is read a great new book, work in the garden, go to a museum, or spend time with friends or my honorary grandchildren. It is not, as we all know, the end of the world.

"Self-care" seems to be the new catchphrase among the “wellness” focused. That usually brings up visions of a massage or a manicure.

For those of us with AMD, self-care means good nutrition, reasonable exercise, and learning to manage the effects of the disease rather than letting it control us.

In the 2 years since my AMD diagnosis, I have become aware of the need to take self-care and aging with AMD seriously, starting with “eyes, ears, back, and knees.”

Adapting the motto once more

And I’ve added another word: stress. Part of that has been finding a retina specialist who treats me as a partner in caring for my eyes. They are, after all, my eyes. I work on my mindfulness exercises. My former “guilty pleasure” is now simply a pleasure.

I also speak up for myself both at home and in the world. Some people think I’m pushy, I think I’m assertive.

Accepting and adapting to my AMD diagnosis has helped me do “self-care” in a new way. Back to my list for the day… Eyes, earn, back and knees, back and knees…

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