My mother has dementia. Each morning, in preparation for her trip to daycare, we will invariably fight over whether or not she'll shower.
I don't know exactly why it is people with Alzheimers and dementia don't like to keep clean. I know they lose their ability to do even the most basic tasks. Perhaps she has forgotten how to regulate the water and is embarrassed to admit it. Or maybe she fears falling. Either way, she’s getting in. I'm not letting her go to daycare dirty.
If I hear the diaper box open, I know we’re in for a fight – she’s in a “change and go” mood. But if I hear the water running from the sink, I know she is brushing her teeth and we are good to go. This morning, it was the diaper box.
I rushed in before she could get her first leg in.
“Ma, you have to shower.” Firm.
“I’m not showering.” Even Firmer.
“It’s been three days Ma,” I lie.
“How do you know how long it’s been?” (She doesn’t know she lives with us so therefore doesn’t know that I know what she does every morning.)
“Come on, let’s get your nightgown off.” I say as I approach.
“I said I’m not showering!” (Oh boy…)
“It will be quick and you know you’ll feel better after.” I say.
“Jesus! These people!” (What people? I’m the only one there.)
“Don’t swear.” I say.
“Oh, stop it, will you please?" she says with a wave of her hand. "I need a facecloth.”
YES! Facecloth means she’s going in. Easy one today.
We adjusted the water and she began to soap up. I got a big blob of body scrub in my hands and rubbed it onto her head (she’s bald) and her back.
Once I got to her legs, she said, “What do I work in a coal bin?”
That stopped me. “Did you say a coal bin?”
“Yeah, a coal bin,” she says.
I burst out laughing.
As I looked around her body to her face, I saw she was smiling too.