This is a very difficult topic to talk about, but one that I share with many, many carers – paid and unpaid – around the world. It has had a profound effect on me – deeply upsetting, but a the same time, like so many things that we need to manage, some humour can help with what is, a very, difficult situation.
In my December 13 Blog I was talking about the problems we were having getting my mum – who is 92 and has Alzheimer’s dementia – into the shower and especially, to wash her hair.
Things had gotten very bad, but no matter how I tried to be diplomatic and caring, the only way to get her into the shower was effectively, to say she was dirty.
As you might imagine, that was met with a truly ferocious reaction – which is understandable, and hence my featured photo.
The sad reality is that dementia affects many people in such a way that they simply do not know how far they have slipped with their own ability to manage the daily stuff.
My mother genuinely thinks that she showers every day and washes her hair every other day.
Not only that, she would tell you she walks every day, cooks a meal every night and has salad for lunch every day.
The truth is, she doesn’t – but it IS HER REALITY, so we have to work with that.
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I had an AHA moment.
We figured that if we could couch the need to wash her hair in a way that was not offensive to her, then we might have a shot.
The plan was to use the excuse that she had an itchy scalp – which she does – and itchy skin – which she does because her skin is so dry – to say that we need to use a medicated shampoo on both hair and skin to treat the condition.
When we realised we might have a solution, we met with her GP – who has been hugely supportive and knows very well that we must get more help through the door if she is to stay in her own home.
He happily engaged in helping us which was great!
We agreed the plan, made an appointment for mum with the doctor for the following week, and hey presto, Shower, hair wash, skin treatment done an dusted!
We have successfully moved this traumatic situation away from it being our (offensive) suggestion, and placed it squarely into the basket of her trusted GP who says it must be done.
We are going slowly slowly, so just once a week and I do it – which as you may realise yourself is a significant challenge for a daughter – but now that we’ve got the ball rolling, it’s a much smaller step to having someone else help her with her “clinical” treatment on other days.
It’s a tough gig this journey we’re on, helping someone you love to live independently when you know in your heart that you probably should be considering higher care, but equally know that you might as well call it quits if that happens.
Certainly for my mum, the shift “downstairs” would equal the end for her, so we continue the fight on her behalf to help her hang onto what little independence and dignity she still has left.
If you know someone who’s fighting the good fight and think my words might help or provide some reassurance that he or she is doing a great job, please pass this Blog on.
To read more of my Blogs, visit http://www.membonoticeboard.com/support-dementia-carers