The good, the bad, the smelly…

At the time of life when our kids’ primary job was ‘play’, I determined that I did not want to become one of those moms that never had time to join in the fun. There’s a lot to be said for water-slides, snowboarding and licking cookie bowls… but at my rapidly advancing age,  jumping into the freezing lake is putting me to the test. As I pondered my latest caregiving dilemma, I thought maybe this cold-water reluctance was a clue.

Hygiene and bathing are key issues in many care-giving relationships, confounded by the desire  to preserve the loved-one’s dignity and modesty. The Alzheimer’s Association identifies hygiene assist as one of the factors in advanced stages, and bathing reluctance is often cited in reference to elderly relatives’ care needs. Perhaps it is because the protracted experience of bathing slow-moving limbs with a shower head that moves, but doesn’t stay to keep one warm, is kind of like showering under the waterfall on a camping trip: roughing it, and cold. And those slow moving blood cells have difficulty rallying to warm things up again. In essence, it’s just darn cold!

The conflict cycle that ensues can be disheartening. An overripe scent does not, at first whiff, preserve dignity; nor does arm-wrestling someone to get them into the shower. Nor does telling them that they, well… stink. How does one build another back up, after so practically stripping them down?

A similar, but different situation arises if one’s care-givee is a tactilely defensive child. Warm water may be okay – but not a hefty scrub, and there are some things that just require scrubbing. At the same time, a concerned parent is trying to preserve some attitude of “Don’t touch me” with regard to private parts. The whole thing requires more finesse than bridge. Finesse that may be in short supply at the bathing hour… And any ‘wrestling’ is sure to result in puddles.

I’ve tried a few things that help… sometimes:  I’d love to hear what works at your house.

*warm towels, or a lovely scent, or 2 minutes of gentle back or foot massage, somehow take away the upper hand and speak, “I Love you.”

*handheld shower really cuts down the puddles – one does have to remember to check the temperature before blasting away.

*trial of different scrubbies that fine-tune to less dexterous hands

*lots of bubbles (Bethie Erin, thank you for teaching your sister the joys of suds fights. Ahem…)

*Choose the least stressful time you can find, for the most stressful jobs. Way too many times, I have waited to bathe Little Miss Sweetness, when I had already morphed from a normal human being to the wicked witch of the…

We recently had a spectacular visit from two ‘kids’ , who in memory, are way to young to have children. But they brought their beautiful babies, in their equally beautiful mom arms, to see us. I asked how the parenting was going: “Do you feel like most of it you just know(that awesome collective of God principles, and watching one’s own great mom, and…), or are you having to ask lots of questions? She answered, “A little of both,” and “When I have gone to God with a dilemma, He says, ‘Don’t you trust me to help you in this, just as in everything else?’ ” Out of the mouth of babes…     I’ve sent up lots of “God help’ pleas at bedtime, so this is a good reminder to me. And I’m thinking that some of that help might reside with you, the experienced!

Lest this topic border a little too closely on the revealing, I’ll end with a story;

When you have more than 2 kids (one for each arm), the need arises for some division of labor, so for at least a two year stretch, it was the evening chore of one child, whom we now occasionally and affectionately refer to as ‘Saint Bethie,’ to give her sister a bath. A good soak goes a long way, and it was not long into her rotation that she  brilliantly began  to do a portion of her guitar practice, perched on the edge of the bathroom counter. I’m not sure those misty hours were good for the instrument, but they were good for everything and everyone else. And then there were the suds fights, which were indelibly passed on – such that Little Miss Sweetness can now initiate those all on her own.

So here’s to you and me, to turning bath-time from disheartening, to a time of warmth, aroma therapy, music and laughter.

jlf 12/12

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