By Shawntelle Shute, MA, CCC/SLP
Executor of the will… round and round and round….check.
You get the picture. As mom and dad start to age, we try to make sure they get everything needed done while they are still able to make their own decisions, because we, as their grown children, so badly want to give our parents what they want.
Skip ahead…days, months, years. We never know how long it will be, if ever, that mom and/or dad will start to have what is often deemed as “behaviors.”
We get that dreaded phone call from the senior living community, “Mr. Smith, your dad is not letting us give him a bath. He screams at us and tries to hit us. The other residents will not tolerate a resident stinking. We are going to have to figure out some way to get him to agree to a bath or shower.”
We think about all of the things we might need to do as out parent’s age, but one of the things that often isn’t pointed out to us, is what is to follow. Think of the statement “He’s just set in his ways.” Why, yes he is. And so are you! I ask you to think for a moment about how you take a shower. This is a total secret! No one really knows what we individually do in the shower. Do you wash your hair first? Do you wash your body with a wash cloth or sponge? Do you only shave on Friday?
Think about how secretive this is. And then when we start to age and lose the ability to tell someone how we want something done, we get very frustrated when it isn’t done in the same manner that we have always done it! It is like waking up on the wrong side of the bed, putting your shirt on inside out and wearing two different shoes on a day that you have a huge meeting and no time to do back home to change!
Think about how you take your shower. Think about how “off” you get if you do something out of sequence. Think about how it might throw you off and make you want to swing at the person who is washing your face with the same wash cloth that your feet were just washed with. In your mind you are “furious!” All you can think is “FIRST FACE, THEN FEET!”
Maybe have a conversation with your spouse about how he or she takes a shower. Compare how differently you two do things.
There are so many more things that are part of being “set in our ways” than having to sit in the same chair and watch the same news in the same slippers every night a 6 p.m.
Have a conversation with your family member before he or she gets to the point that communication is no longer effective. Find out what order they take a shower in, what order do they get dressed in, how do they like their cereal, and so many more. Make it fun, and you’ll be better prepared when the time comes to make sure your loved one is cared for the way they want.
Shawntelle is a dementia specialist who is currently contracting with Presbyterian Manor in Clay Center and Salina, KS. Shawntelle does training sessions is many areas for family and staff.