When I asked my mother to move in with us a year ago, her enthusiasm centered on several pluses over assisted living. First, she could eat and sleep by her own schedule. Second, she could have ice cream every night before going to bed. Third, she could take bubble baths again! We purchased a shower bench for most of Mom’s bathing, but every weekend she tried to indulge in sudsy heat. Recently, we noticed that beginning her day with a shower resulted in tears and stress. Determined to smooth out the edges on Mom’s days wherever and whenever we can, we shifted to having her mornings start with a bubble bath as she reclined on a bath pillow and listened to her favorite music.
With the shower bench, I can guide Mom as she clutches one of the different handicapped rails and swings into the higher seat provided by the bench. With a little nudging and scooting, the two of us can get her centered in the tub. Baths, however, mean lowering down entirely into the tub and then having both upper and lower body strength to lever up into a standing position. Mom cannot do this kind of movement and relies upon David to half hoist her to where she can step out of the tub and rotate into her wheelchair.
I’ve watched David effortlessly pivot Mom around, up and out of the tub time and again. He helps her move to a sitting position by guiding her hands to one of the rails. He then enters the tub, instructs her to bend her knees, and together they have her standing within seconds. She repositions her hands to another rail, steps over the tub’s edge, and reaches for her wheelchair which almost butts up to the tub. One more step, and she swivels into her chair where we wrap her in large towels to keep her from getting chilled.
A bout with an intestinal bug meant Mom wanted a bath this morning after David had already left for work. I ignored David’s suggestion that I never attempt to give Mom a bath. “Stupid is as stupid does.” Getting Mom into the bath proved extremely easy. Using Olay, we scrubbed her silky clean. After a few minutes, Mom decided she wanted to get out and get dressed. I flipped the drain, eased behind her, and told her to grab the closest handrail.
Following the routine I’d seen David perform hundreds of time, I instructed Mom to bend her knees as I positioned myself to lift her up. Nothing happened. I rolled up my sleeves, centered myself behind Mom, and with my arms around her, I made another fruitless attempt. It’s a good thing I struggled out Mom’s line of vision because I’m certain she would have panicked if she’d seen my total helplessness.
My thoughts started zipping all over the place, “Mom’s stuck in the tub! Should I call 911? Crapcrapcrapcrapcrap!” I thought of our next door neighbor, a man in his seventies recovering from a mild stroke. Not a good option.
In desperation, I managed to heave Mom onto the tub’s edge. I think adrenalin flooded through me. I still couldn’t get her to a standing position, and she couldn’t help me move her any closer to her chair. Panic set my mind into overdrive. I told her I’d have to lower her to the floor, where I’d already placed a towel. Once I had her upper body resting on a solid surface, I lifted her legs and repositioned her. Now I could drag her on the towel into her dressing area. Once there, I helped her sit upright next to another handicapped rail. With both of her hands firmly gripping this bar, I could support her weight as I shifted her into a standing position. Freeing one hand, I hauled her wheelchair over. Mom gratefully sank into her chair where she began to laugh! Good thing she has a sense of humor when it comes to me doing stupid stuff.
Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman