Joanna Figg-Latham is a Dorset based Osteopath who treats all ages but is particularly interested in providing Osteopathy for the elderly. It is a treatment concerned with pain and conditions relating to muscles, joints and bones. She had worked in educational book publishing prior to retraining, full-time for four years in osteopathy, so she could be involved directly in hands-on care. Joanna moved to Dorset three years ago and divides her time between practices in Cheselbourne and Poundbury where she works with people of all ages, and predominantly those in later life.
This is our first in a series of “A Day in the Life of…” someone with an interest in or a point of view about looking after elderly parents or relatives.
I wake around six every day; living in a semi-rural location I enjoy the peace of the early morning watching the wildlife while enjoying breakfast. Preparation for my clients begins shortly after. I carry out research and liaise with other specialists; I then work through appointments until lunch which often consists of greens I grow in the garden. In the afternoon I travel to my alternative practice.
During the day I check in on my parents as I am very much involved in providing support as my father cares for my mother. By early evening I like to go out for a walk and later I relax by reading, perhaps planning a weekend coastal walk, or developing ideas for the garden.
What I love about my work is combining different gentle hands-on treatments (osteopathic, soft tissue massage and sometimes acupuncture). The individual combinations for patients depend on in-depth discussion with them about new or on-going symptoms. I welcome carers or spouses/partners/family members joining in appointments as they often have different observations about lifestyle as well as health issues. I aim to provide holistic treatments which might involve exercises to adapt for changes in every day movement as well as ways to help prevent trouble recurring.
The moments I never forget are when a person greets me with a smile and describes the improvements enabling them to knit, play golf, enjoy a walk, pick up their child or simply get through the day at work without pain. My work is as varied as the people I meet. It is so fulfilling to help people return to health.
An issue affecting my work is access to osteopathy because it is a privately funded treatment. This is why I’ve signed-up to the Dorset Carers Discount Card scheme to help more people who I think could really benefit from osteopathy.
My observations about caring for an elderly relative or parent are how easy it is to under-estimate the physical and mental demands on you the carer; and if you’re trying to fit everything in – juggling your own family, work and just a busy life – it can be easy to forget just sitting and chatting with your parent or relative. The advice I would offer is to try and plan for the day to manage your energy and to pace yourself. It is very easy to get involved with your own priorities. Obviously, meals and household chores are a given, however, what is really needed is time to sit and listen. Otherwise, those we care for might become isolated at the centre of a whirling storm of tasks. Striking a balance between practical demands and providing companionship is challenging.
And like so many of us, I wish it were possible to have two pairs of hands, or to be in three places at once. So. Don’t beat yourself up. There are only 24 hours in a day and there is only one of each of us.
You can find out more information on the Dorset Carers Discount Card here.