Alzheimer’s Lives Here with Greta Frigault

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Time for a shower; must be Christmas

If you’ve been following our journey, you’ve probably read all about how much fun it was to convince Mom to get in the bath. I can assure you, it is no less fun to convince Dad. As a matter of fact, he has a whole long list of things he will say when you suggest a shower, one of which is, “Is it Christmas yet? I only take a shower at Christmas you know.”

There is also, “No thank you, I’m just not feeling it today.” There are times we get told off in no uncertain terms, and there are times when he agrees without hesitation. There was even a time last month when he was the one to say he’d like to get in the shower.  Could have knocked me over with a feather that day!

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I know that with some Alzheimer’s patients, there is a fear of water, but I don’t believe that is the reason behind Dad’s reluctance. Fear of falling would probably be more the case with him, because he’s fallen in the shower so many times, as he did the last time.

This was the day that he suggested the shower himself. He was also firmly of a mind to do it all by himself. “Are you sure you don’t want me to help you, Dad?” Of course, I got the roll of the eye in answer, and a clear indication of what he thought of me helping him at that point.

Against my better judgement, I got him all set up and left him to his own devices. He would not agree to allow the home support angel to help him either, so we both stayed in the bathroom area, hoping that all would be okay.

As we listened, we could hear the water start to run in the tub, then the switch from bath to shower head; so far so good. Next came the agonizing wait for him to actually step into the shower and get comfortable on the bath chair; this is the most dangerous part because he has to bring his foot up over the side of the tub, keep his balance and shift his weight to bring the other foot into the tub. Even though we have installed grab bars, it’s not the best set up. In any case, we didn’t have long to wait before we heard the crash we’d both been hoping not to.

Luckily, as he fell, he got tangled up in the shower curtain liner which slowed his descent enough so that he didn’t hit the floor too hard, and which covered his body so that he was able to have some degree of modesty as the home support angel and I helped him back onto his feet. Once we ascertained that he wasn’t hurt, he indicated that he still wanted to continue with his shower. This time he did not argue at having one of us stay and help him.

I don’t really know if it’s the fear of falling, or just the confusion that makes him so hesitant to have a shower.  This is when I realize just how much Dad has lost, because although he can still get through the day, doing ordinary things, he has absolutely no idea what to do in the shower, and needs us to tell him exactly what to do. You must say, “Put your hand here and stand up. Lift your foot up and over the tub. Sit on the chair.”

You cannot just say, “Wash your hair.” You have to take shampoo, tell him to open his hand, pour some shampoo in and then tell him to wash his hair and so on until he is clean. It is surreal in a way, because he does not act as if he has Alzheimer’s most of the time, so when this happens, it’s a reminder to me that no matter how well I think he is doing, he is losing himself just as Mom did, slowly, but surely.

I have to get on the phone and see what is would take to fix the tub with the ‘walk-in’ option, which I never think to do until it’s time to wrangle him into the shower again! I am hoping that with one less obstacle, he’ll be more amenable, because he really does enjoy the shower once he’s in there, especially when I scrub his back for him.

This is our reality. Alzheimer’s lives here.

Next week, I hope to introduce our newest family member, Peanut!