For some of my readers, this post may be TMI. When writing about my mother, I try to be judicious in the stories I tell and respectful in the details I share. I hope this isn’t crossing that line. What I am about to tell you needs to be written because it is a daily reality faced by those afflicted with Alzheimer’s and those who care for them.
Read on if you’re game.
Imagine for a moment what it is like to wake up from your sleep and have absolutely no idea where you are or how you got there. You look around the room at furniture you’ve owned for at least 30 years and you don’t recognize a thing. You see a picture of your younger self on the dresser and say aloud, “Well, that looks like me. But, where on earth am I?”
Now, imagine you have to find a bathroom in this mystery location. Fast! Even though it is only a few feet away and you can see it from where you are lying in bed, you look around the room and have not one inkling as to which way to go to find the place you need to go. To make matters worse, your legs have become painfully uncooperative and it seems impossible to even stand up. So, you call out, “Help me! Help me!”
Your daughter comes as quickly as she can. When she enters the room, you’re so glad and you greet her, “Oh, there you are, Momma!” Your daughter helps you get to your feet and guides you so you can shuffle with your walker those few feet down the hallway to the bathroom.
Once you get to the bathroom, you look inside that little room and see the toilet just a few steps away. You aren’t sure if it meant for your use. Once assured you may use it, you try getting into the narrow room with your walker, but it gets in your way. Your daughter (Momma to you now) gently coaxes it away from you and places one of your hands on the sink and helps you reach for the grab bar with the opposite hand.
You take two painful steps and then look into the toilet and flush it. You begin to sit down without sliding your britches down first. Your daughter quickly helps you with that detail, but your knees don’t hinge like they used to, so you cry out in pain as you drop to the seat. By then you’re embarrassed because your clothing is now wet or soiled.
You know the steps to toileting, but you just cannot remember the order in which they should be done.
If you are at all like my lovely but confused mother, by this juncture in your journey with the memory robber called Alzheimer’s, you need help with nearly every little decision to be made – and there are a surprising number of decisions we automatically make without even realizing it in the simple act of using a toilet.
It has been many weeks since Momma has been able to independently navigate the process of toileting. As her daughter, seeing her struggle with this generally private matter breaks my heart.
There has to be an easier way.
One day I suggested to my hubby that removing the bathroom door might be one way to remove one more obstacle in that tight space for her. It would add a few more inches of space. He thought that was a good idea. Then, I brainstormed out loud, “I think we should install another grab bar parallel to the sink.”
We already had two grab bars in that tiny space, but within 24 hours, my wish was his command…and it was done.
Thankfully, we have two other bathrooms in our home for guests who might desire a little more privacy. But, the decision was a good one. Momma is still confused, but she navigates that space much more safely and it’s no big deal. Plus, I no longer worry that she will get trapped in that small bathroom should she fall against the door.
Now, there are other matters related to toileting that caregivers face, and I shall write about a few of them in the near future. But, if I were to suggest a caregiving tip this week, it would be this:
Try to observe your loved one’s world through their eyes. What obstacles could you remove to make their life just a little bit easier and safer?