Sunday, August 9, 2009

Bare your soul

Whilst I’m in the mood, I have another confession but this time I have a much better excuse, and believe me when I tell you that I am in great need of excuses, although I’m trying hard to pull myself out of the lake of guilt.

Just stop wallowing woman!

You see the other thing I missed was that lack of bath room use. My mother shares this experience caring for my father. It’s more difficult for her. Far more difficult with a spouse. This is especially so because of the type of man she married. She basically married an Edwardian, although I don’t think she fully appreciated the consequences at the time. Soft spoken, dignified and polite, they both had their traditional roles etched on the marriage certificate. All that has now changed. Nobody tossed her the reins as such but there she is, in charge of the horses.

Bathing became a big issue, an issue that I unfortunately had to mention. It was one of many bug bears. She knew it was an issue but only one of many. A different order of magnitude. So I tried my best to be gentle but my mother is oh so very different from me. A gentle prod was more than enough to beget action. She told me on the phone the following week. She was remarkably cheerful, far more cheerful than I’d heard for a long time. “I did it!” she beamed. “Did what?” I asked. “I phoned social services and got the ball rolling. Sometime next week a nurse will call to give him a bath. I’m done with it. Problem solved.” And solved it duly was but my predicament is far more delicate if not precarious. Nonna has been with us almost five weeks. It is the height of summer and yet not so much as a trickle of water or a smear of soap has been in contact.

I do have an explanation. Let me explain for us both, as they’re inter-weaved. It has always been Nonna habit to swim, daily. For some while last year this was difficult to negotiate since the boys couldn’t really swim, although they believed that they really could swim. We fell into a habit. I would open the pool, bring back the cover very quietly, half an hour in advance so that Nonna could enjoy thirty minutes of exclusive alone time. After that, she would sit on the side of the pool better able to watch her grandchildren, one natural seal, two flailing whales and me trying to keep everyone afloat. It was the cause of much amusement, to her at least. During the kerfuffle she would amble away to have a shower before the deluge of children ousted her.

This year, things are different. They are different but I didn’t notice particularly at first because other events obscured the true scene. The scene was basically green, a pool full of abundant, blooming algae. Technically it was safe to swim but swimming in pea soup is not a very attractive option. So, no swim equated to no shower, not daily, nor weekly, not ever. Once again I completely failed to connect the dots because it would appear that I am far more of a creature of habit that I should generally care to admit.

So there you have it, or rather I have it, or rather, she doesn’t have it, but have it she must. It’s just the ‘how to’ bit that I’m searching for but I have a tentative plan or two. It’s the how to approach with diplomacy that eludes me. I can think of few things more galling than to suffer such a personal attack from a daughter in law.

Since the pool is recovering, slowly, I could just wait a few more days, but that smacks too much of avoidance on my part. One tentative plan is to prompt, something like, ‘can I turn the shower on for you?’ The other tentative plan is to suggest that I do her hair again. If she’s going to wash her hair she might as well wash it in the shower rather than the sink. Lastly, if all else fails I shall use my trump card, the grandmother one. I shall exploit my son’s aversion to showers and ask if Nonna will don her swimsuit and accompany him into the shower to supervise. I am reluctant to use this one as I fear for Nonna’s safety in such slippy conditions but at least she won’t need her hearing aid to protect her from his agonizing screams. Needless to say, I still wear my learner plates and would welcome advice from all quarters. I’m tempted to trust my instincts but I’m not overly confident in this [new] department. Mistakes are inevitable but I’d prefer them not to be big ones nor permanent, as I suspect we all have a long road ahead of us.


farmwifetwo said...

Is there some way to make up a "bathroom" time table. Make it look like you're trying to fit everyone's shower in, including hers.

So at X time she goes
At Y time you go
At Z time the boys go....

Or, since the boys have schedules of sorts could you play the "grandmother" card and make one up for her about how she's helping them???????

Anonymous said...

You can try the direct approach. Nonna, you need a shower, I can help you. It sounds like she's quite independent, physically, which almost makes it harder. My sister in law helps my mum bathe when my mother visits them. It's difficult at first, but gets easier.

Almost American said...

Your mum is lucky to have social services to help - and I can understand why she was so cheerful about it - one source of regular conflict gone. After my MIL was hospitalized, my FIL finally admitted it sometimes took him 3 or 4 hours to get her up, showered and dressed, with her screaming bloody murder at him almost the entire time. (I did tend to blame that at least partially on the fact that she wanted to sleep till 9 and he always woke her up at 5 a.m.!)

I like farmwifetwo's suggestion - though I don't know how many bathrooms you have. If Nonna has her own that won't work so well. Does Nonna's shower have a good non-slip surface and grab rails? I would guess she's simply forgetting to have a shower because it's not part of the routine right now, but if she's at all nervous about falling then that would put her off showering too.

I wonder how often she tended to shower as a youngster? If she truly has Alzheimers then she may be returning to older habits - and Europeans don't always shower every day. (Though at least once a week would be nice wouldn't it, but I'm sure she doesn't remember from day to day whether she had a shower recently or not.)

mumkeepingsane said...

I have no advice but your instincts and the advice you've gotten sound good to me. Good Luck. So tricky, that diplomacy.

graceunderautism said...

perhaps a trip to a local pool would inspire a shower?

Some YMCA's offer free memberships to senior citizens.