I suppose taking care of elderly family members brings with it emotions not unlike taking care of young family members, including one’s own children. But, a clear difference in these two types of caregiving is that when dealing with children we are likely to explain unwanted behaviour as happening because the child doesn’t know better, while dealing with an older person we find it hard to believe that he or she doesn’t know better. In the situation I am about to explain, the activity at the root of the issue was something that had been discussed many times for more than two years, so had become a twice weekly routine, but a variable changed, which prompted Annie to think she could get away with changing the rules.
Going back to Annie’s first assessment by a seniors’ health care team connected with our health care system more than a year ago, it was established that she was not to get into and out of the bath tub on her own, and a bather was assigned to help her with this task of living. From the get go, Annie resented this loss of her freedom, which I can understand. However, it was necessary for her wellbeing. Fast forward almost 2 ½ years when Annie was going out one hour after her scheduled bath time, causing her to think she’d have no time to get ready after her bath, so she suggested she bathe before the bather was to arrive. She became enraged when I told her that was not going to happen, and discussed with her what she could do prior to the bath to be ready for her departure time. Immediately upon me returning to my office I heard her on the phone to her son, my husband, when I had explained to her that he would not be available by phone until after the bather would arrive. She dialled his cell phone number four times, not realizing that she was talking to his voicemail greeting until her last call, when she left a message. Not long after her last call to her son I heard the bath water running and knew that she was being defiant and having her bath on her own. I was livid and dared not go to her suite to talk with her, as I would have said things I shouldn’t and that really wouldn’t help in any way. I had to go out so I needed to tell Annie to lock her door, at which time she lied to me about bathing, something I decided to ignore and let her son deal with the issue.
What struck me, as it does whenever these situations arise, is how conflicted I felt about my rage, which I know was justified, given the potential consequences. However, I couldn’t help but feel badly for Annie, once a very independent woman, who lived most of her life on her own, at a time when that wasn’t the norm. I could feel her frustration of being too regulated, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how pathetic she sounded pleading with the voicemail greeting to allow her to have her bath on her own. I know that I’m not looking forward to being in circumstances like hers, but I cannot help being horribly angry, given that she knows that the rules are necessary for her own protection. In fact, I am convinced that when she pulls stuff like this she gets a wee twinkle in her eye … and perhaps I will, too!
Yours in Caregiving …