I’ve found that some of the most combustible exchanges with the loved one in my charge revolve around hygiene.
You’d expect this to be true if it were a child in my care but I’m referring to the seventy-five (going on five) year old Miss Cathy.
Since becoming my mother’s caregiver 3+ years ago we’ve clashed over many things; cooking (she shouldn’t) exercise (she should) and various and sundry other issues but none seem to bubble over the side of the tub of reason and burst into an argument the way the topic of bathing and washing her hair do (does).
I’m not sure if it’s the reversal of roles, the child now parenting the parent or embarrassment; although after wiping your parents’ rear after helping them in the bathroom you’d think that ship had long since sailed.
Believe me, it’s not that I want to be the “bath bully” anymore than I want to be on “poo patrol” but Alzheimer’s isn’t just about reminding your loved one where they put their favorite blouse.
It can start off that way, all clean and innocent; a misplaced book here, a forgotten appointment there, and if that’s where you are in the disease with your loved one…enjoy!
In time you will look back on all the frustration and change you faced during the first stage of the diagnosis and realize that those were the “Halcyon days”.
As for my current dilemma I am at a quandary as to what I should do; ‘rinse’ (leave her alone) or ‘repeat’ (continue to motivate her to be better).
Sure, it would be ‘easy’ to let Miss Cathy have her way and just open a window while she sat around in her own funk, and look away as she scratched at Lord knows what could be marinating in her unwashed coif but who said any of this was going to be easy? And if they did-nobody said it to me.
Besides, what kind of caregiver would I be, let alone son to a mother he purports to care about if I didn’t do those things that were uncomfortable (for me) and maddening (for her) but ultimately in the best interest of my loved one.
So, I refuse to let her standards of hygiene slip (ones she instilled in me, by the way) even if she’s forgotten them.
If I can’t get her to “wash yo ass” as she so often (and not so delicately) barked at my brother and me to do when we were growing up then at least I could try to get her to wash her hair more often (‘often’ being a relative term and our current bone of contention).
Hair today-the rest of the body tomorrow……